That advice may not be applicable to every situation, but it’s what Ace and I did over the weekend when we departed from what turned out to be the final stop on our year-long trip around the country — the apartment of my birth.
In September of 2010, 50 years to the day after John Steinbeck and his poodle started the journey that would become “Travels with Charley,” Ace and I left the author’s former driveway in Sag Harbor to duplicate, more or less, his route.
We circled the country, stopping at places of dog significance, Steinbeck significance, or no significance at all, traveling more than 20,000 miles before we returned to Baltimore.
There, having moved out of our home before the trip, we squatted and mooched off friends for a little while, and then rode a little more.
We backtracked to North Carolina, where, planning to linger a few months, we lived in the basement of a mansion in Winston-Salem. After little more than a month, Ace developed back issues and, on our vet’s advice, we started seeking a place to stay that didn’t have stairs.
I was on an outing with my mother when I asked her to show me my birthplace — the tiny apartment she, my father, and sister shared in what’s known as College Village.
Just about the time I was wrapping that up — except for the pesky getting-it-published part — the landlord who owned my unit told me he was selling it, and that I was required to leave my birthplace.
It was a little sad — in part because of the sentimental value of the place; in part because of leaving the friends, dog and human (and one cat) we’d made; in part because it would mean lifting numerous heavy objects.
With little spring in our steps, Ace and I went looking at apartment complexes, only to be turned off by their cookie-cutter sameness, and their silly pet rules — from arbitrary weight limits and breed restrictions to ridiculously high, non-refundable pet fees.
Even when they had swimming pools, we couldn’t manage to get very excited about any of them.
It had a green tin roof, a working fireplace, a shed out back and a front porch that seemed to be crying out for two rocking chairs.
It’s outside of town, but also inside of town, which we’ll explain tomorrow. In any event, we moved in over the weekend.
Friends in College Village held a goodbye party before we left — not a surprise party, but pretty surprising. That four women in their 20s would hold a get-together for a man all-too-rapidly approaching 60 says a lot about them, and possibly even more, I think, about that man’s dog.
Ace got a giant bone, an azalea bush that, once planted, he will be allowed to pee on, and a bandana that says “I’m smarter than your honor student.” Everyone at the party agreed that, in addition to being funny, it is probably also true.
Even before I started packing, Ace realized something was up and got stressed. Ace loves to hit the road, but he also loves having a familiar routine. He became extra needy, extra clingy and followed me around the house, except when I was making too much noise. Then he’d seek refuge in the bed, or ask to go outside.
There, he seemed even more eager to see the friends he was always excited to see, run to and lean on.
Perhaps, too, he was sensing the nostalgia swelling up in me. Even though I’d only lived in the apartment for my first year of life, and had no clear memories of it, it was where I was conceived, where my parents lived when I was born and the subject of much of my mother’s reminiscing.
The only thing that came close to seeming familiar to me was the door ringer — a hand cranked brass bell that, whenever it rang, gave Ace a thrill (because it meant company) and me a vague sense of déjà vu. Either I remembered it from infancy or it reminded me of a school bell.
When I left, I asked the new owner if I could take it, and he said okay, so I unscrewed it from the door and threw it in a box.
In a way, we’re not closing any doors, just opening — and perhaps modifying – some new ones.
I’d like to install the old bell on my new front door. It would be a way of bringing some of the sentimental value of the old place into the new one. It would make my mother’s eyes light up when she saw it.
And every time it rang, it would startle Ace, make him bark once, and lead him to stand at the door, tail wagging in anticipation over who — old friend or new one — might be on the other side.
(Tomorrow: The new place, disclosing our undisclosed location)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, blog, book, college village, dogs, door, door bell, friends, john steinbeck, moving, north carolina, ohmidog!, packing, pets, ringer, stress, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley, website, winston-salem
On Sunday night, a Jacksonville, Florida, woman allegedly attacked her family’s dog with a butcher knife, later explaining to officers that she wanted to “know what it felt like.”
Two nights earlier, in California, a 12-year-old boy told police he’d hung the family dog because he wanted to see it die.
Let’s be clear. That’s not curiosity. That’s psychotic behavior, and if convicted they both should get to know what prison feels like, for a long time.
News 4 in Jacksonville reported that 22-year-old Mariessa Caggiano stabbed the family’s 10-year old Labrador retriever seven times with an 8-inch knife.
Authorities said Caggiano stabbed the dog once in the family driveway, and that the dog ran off with the knife still in her. Caggiano chased the dog into a neighbor’s yard and stabbed it about six more times, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The dog, still alive when authorities arrived, was rushed to a veterinary hospital, but was not expected to live.
Officers said Caggiano admitted to stabbing the dog because she w”anted to see what it felt like.” She was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals.
In Salinas, California, a 12-year-old boy was placed in juvenile hall after allegedly hanging a dog because, he reportedly told officers, he wanted to see the animal die.
The boy, not named, was booked Friday into Monterey County Juvenile Hall on felony animal-cruelty charges, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Police said they were called to an apartment by a woman who sounded as if she was struggling with someone and yelled, “He’s hurting the dog.” When they arrived, they found the 12-pound terrier-mix dead, hanging by its collar on a bedroom door handle.
The boy came out of the bedroom showing no remorse, police said, and told officers, “I was mad at the dog so I killed it.”
(Photo: Mariessa Caggiano, courtesy of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office)
Posted by jwoestendiek October 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 12 year old, abuse, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animals, arrest, butcher knife, cruelty to animals, dogs, door, handle, hanging, juvenile, killed, knife, knob, labrador retriever, law enforcement, murder, pets, stabbed, what it felt like
A Greenfield, Mass., woman is facing animal cruelty charges after her car apparently dragged her dog for four miles.
Police received a report Sunday morning that a black dog was being dragged from the driver’s side of a car in Turners Falls.
When police arrived, they found a man and a woman coming out of a wooded area, where the body of a dog had been discarded, WWLP (22News) reported.
The woman was identified in police records as Shylo Valego of Greenfield. The man is identified as Casey A. Aiken of Turners Falls.
The two had originally told police that they did not know who the animal’s owner was and had found it dead in the road. Later, Valego admitted the dog belonged to her, police said.
An examination of the vehicle led police to conclude the the dog’s leash was trapped in the vehicle’s driver’s side door as the woman drove from her Greenfield home into Turners Falls; a distance of about four miles.
She was charged with cruelty to animals, obstruction of justice, and possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. Aiken is charged with obstruction of justice and being an accessory after the fact.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, car, charged, cruelty to animals, dog, dogs, door, dragged, four miles, greenfield, leash, massachusetts, owner, pets, turners falls
A Chicago woman who said she “no longer wanted” her dog was charged with animal abuse over the weekend after her bleeding dog led police to her doorstep.
Police said they responded to an animal abuse call of children beating a dog with broomsticks and baseball bats.
The children fled when police arrived, and the dog, a terrier mix, walked back to the home it had been put out of, in East Garfield Park, and scratched on the door, according to Chicago Tribune.
Officers said the dog’s owner, Lashon Parks, 42, hadn’t been giving the animal water or food and had left it outside in temperatures below 25-degrees for an unidentified amount of time.
Parks told officers that she owned the dog for ten years but no longer wanted it.
She was charged with failure to comply with an animal owner’s duties and cruelty to animals, both misdemeanors.
The dog was in stable condition, according to an Animal Care & Control official.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 12th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, abuse, abused, animal cruelty, animals, bats, beating, bloody, broomsticks, charged, chicago, children, cruelty to animals, dog, dogs, door, kicked out, pets, police, scratched
How could you not be smitten with a man with the mug of a pug, the work ethic of a sled dog; the insatiable curiosity of a boxer; and the droopy demeanor of a basset hound?
If you were to mix Yogi Bear with Rocky Balboa, then southern fry them, you’d have David Perlmutt, in whose house Ace and I spent the last three days. He’s one of those guys who underwhelms you (to borrow a friend’s description) on first impression. (I, too, am a member of that club.) He’s very low key, quite soft spoken, and doesn’t feel the need to publicly exhibit vast amounts of enthusiasm, which is not to say he doesn’t have it. It’s in there, percolating. But being perky is not his thing. He’s not exactly Mr. Bubbly.
In that way, and a few others, we are peas in a pod. We both graduated, the same year, from the University of North Carolina’s journalism school – though we don’t think we knew each other back then. We both worked at the Charlotte Observer, though in my case just for a year. He’s been there nearly 30.
We’re both divorced (though in my case twice) and we both have only children headed off to college this month.
And we’re both plum dog crazy.
(And no, I’m not proposing. He has already turned me down.)
But he did invite Ace and me to be guests in his lovely home among towering trees in a quiet Charlotte neighborhood that’s filled with dogs. His two, Caki and Clancy, were at the home of his ex (with whom he shares custody of the canines) so I didn’t get a chance to meet them.
She performed it flawlessly three times in a row, because that’s how many tries it took for me to get a decent photo. (Perhaps I should train Ace to take pictures and let him handle the photography from now on.)
Winnie, who’s three-years-old, is assisted in the task by a rubber band, wrapped around the door knob (one of those regular round door knobs), which allows her front paws to get some traction, and twist the knob. Then she pushes the door open, walks inside, turns around, closes it with a flick of her front paws and beams proudly.
“She picked it up in no time,” said Ellen Archer, who, with the aid of treats, taught Winnie the trick.
My visit to Charlotte — on top of checking out The Dog Bar, spending some time with cousin Laura, reconnecting with Perlmutt and re-meeting his now-grown and multi-talented daughter, Ainslie (today’s guest columnist) — also gave me a chance to look up another old friend, Ray Owens.
He’s one of my ex-college roommates who, despite being in near constant prank mode — then and now — somehow managed to become a successful attorney. As it turns out, he has lost neither his hair, his sense of humor, nor his detailed memories of college days, including the time, driving home from a Deep Purple/Uriah Heap/Black Sabbath concert in Fayetteville, we hit a furious rainstorm. My yellow Firebird — though, I would argue still, a totally hot car — had broken windshield wipers, so we resolved the matter by tying shoestrings to each wiper and, from inside the car, pulling the wipers back and forth manually the whole way home.
Not a bad trick, either. I think we rewarded ourselves from the sack of treats we carried with us for the trip — Fritos and bean dip, as I recall.
You might imagine that we’ve grown up since then — that we’ve all become respectable and responsible adults as we pass through middle age and beyond; that we’ ve realized that life is serious business and, once your hair is gone or going grey, it’s time to close the door on Black Sabbath, childish pranks, dopey behavior, running in circles and needless frivolity.
But if we’ve learned anything from or dogs, it’s this: Naaaah.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, adulthood, animals, books, charlotte, charlotte observer, children, close, david perlmutt, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, door, frivolity, jokes, journalism, newspapers, north carolina, ohmidog!, open, pets, pranks, ray owens, reporters, reunion, roommates, the dog bar, travel, traveling with dogs, tricks, uniersity of north carolina
Gary Rowley hadn’t seen Brindle since 1999, when his dog nosed open a door and disappeared into the night.
This past Sunday — thanks to a microchip, Facebook and an animal lover who volunteered to drive the dog 1,300 miles back home from Oklahoma – they reunited at Rowley’s home in Fredricksburg, Virginia.
“He needed a way home,” said Laurie Swain, who flew from Virginia to Oklahoma, then drove the dog back. “If the dog can wander 1,300 plus miles in 10 years I can certainly spend a few days driving.”
Rowley had given up on finding the dog in the decade since he went missing, shortly before the Super Bowl in 1999.
Then, last month, he received a message on Facebook: “Did you ever have a dog named Brindle?”
The question came from an Oklahoma military family who had discovered Brindle hiding under a bush, NBC News in Washington reported. After a local veterinarian found a microchip in Brindle’s neck, the family tracked Rowley down.
“I don’t know what to say. I just can’t believe someone would do this,” Rowley said.
Rowley has no idea how Brindle managed to wander so far from home, but he says it won’t happen again.
“For him to get out now, he’s going to have to turn a knob and flip a dead bolt,” Rowley said. “I’m still thinking about some of those child safety locks.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 3rd, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 10 years, 300 miles, brindle, decade, dog, dogs, door, escape, escaped, facebook, fredrickbsurg, gary rowley, lost, microchip, miracle, missing, oklahoma, reunion, reunited, virginia, wandering