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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BITCH


Dear Diary,

There is truth to the saying that no good deed goes unpunished. This past weekend I pay a visit to my father and his wife. The purpose of the visit is to spend time with these "loved ones" of mine, and also to pick up a couple bottles of this "holy water" my father wants my mother to drink to help keep her alive in her death dance with metastatic cancer. Mom is doing fine. I have told my father in the past that I don't believe in the merits of this water and if he wants her to have it he is welcome to drop it off up here at the house. He says he is too busy. When I visited him he was relaxing on the couch watching the Colts game and chatting with a buddy over the score. Business takes many shapes and forms.

I realize it is a complicated situation for my father. After all my mother is his ex-wife, and his current wife may not greet with enthusiasm his occasional visits to the former love of his life. I know when they were together my mother would not have appreciated dad calling on his first ex-wife, Gloria, even after the bitter divorce that led to his marriage to my mom. The future ex always frowns on associations with current ex. Because the roles can easily reverse. Married to my father (or to anyone for that matter, most of all a divorcee) you never know how long your relationship will last. He is on wife number three, and I hope for both their sakes, and for my own, that she is the last in line. Divorces are stressful for all parties.

So I understand why Sunday football takes precedence over a visit to my mom's sick bed. After all, for deliveries of treatments of questionable merit, he has me. But my father got himself in this situation, little head thinking for big head, and why should I be the one to do what should be his obligation? Why the obligation in the first place? I don't even think my mother puts faith in said water. She already had surgery, and is taking meds. Sufficient, right? Because when the disease gets severe enough, the heavy hand of modern medicine gets called in. Not this holistic hocus pocus and other mumbo jumbo. I tell the man all this and my words fall on deaf ears. So I pick the water up. Path of least resistance.

While I'm there he spends fifteen minutes telling me about the new leather converse shoes he is wearing. How he found a great deal online, better than at Footlocker; how he likes them so much he bought two pairs, one in blue and one in red. And how many guys in their late 70s look so "hip"? And by the way how do I like these shoes of his, pretty sweet huh? Now in social converse there are always at least two ways of replying when a person solicits your opinion. You can say what you really feel. But if what you feel is rather harsh, you can abide by the "if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all." And if the person really presses you, lie. 

I could have said that this flagrant materialism is more fitting in a boy of fourteen who is prancing around in his new pair of sneakers that his mother bought him for graduation. I did this after eighth grade when my mom bought me two pairs of high-top shoes, one in blue and the other in red. Call it a coincidence. But in a man on just this side of 80, especially a man who raised his kids to "be desireless" it seems pretty pathetic. But I didn't say this. I told him they looked "nice." I had a similar pair in 2003. What I didn't say was my girlfriend at the time didn't like them. She thought they made me look gay. Which would have been fine for a homosexual, but a straight man looking gay invites a lot of unwanted attention from members of the same sex, as I came to find. Who knows, maybe my father likes all the looks. And there are plenty of seventy-something men on West Hollywood who dress the way my dad does. And Ben Stiller's dad.



Then his wife shows me this dance show she participated in, a bunch of old ladies (her phrase) jumping around like June bugs in Paula Abdul's get-up from the 80s. She had to guilt-trip her son into attending the production. I went to your rehearsals, she said. She was never in organized anything as a kid, so she's fulfilling these bygone dreams in her post-menopausal days. But isn't that what having kids is for? To give them what you never had? Your acting like a fourth-grader at a Cinco de Mayo talent show is pretty ridiculous. Whatever. I said the performance was "nice." Because there were bigger fish to fry.

By fish I mean their dog Daisy. Daisy is a standard poodle. Lovely animal. Each time I visit I am obliged to play Frisbee with Daisy. Not out of any wish of my own, but because she hounds me, follows me around, slobbering on me, breathing on me, guilt-tripping me with those sad eyes of hers until I pick it up and throw it to the other side of the yard. And she won't stop until she is dead tired. I don't think Daisy gets enough exercise. I feel for the poor girl. And so most days I play. But not yesterday, because it was raining. And I was there on an errand, and I just wanted to "get 'er done." Besides, I don't like football, and the dog has foul breath.

But my father is oblivious to his obnoxious dog. He prattles on about his shoes, while looking up a picture of Jerry Stiller to compare their looks. While his wife is busy in the kitchen making beans. So I am at the mercy of this overwhelming dog who is smothering me with her enthusiasm, soiling my shoes with her muddy paws, and must fend for myself. I keep kicking the toy over to my dad's side of the room but she takes it as a sign I want to play. No Daisy. I never want to play. I just want you away. Finally I say get this dog away from me! This charade has happened so many times that I am more irritated than I usually get.

And what happens? Does my father or his wife shoo their dog, like any conscientious owner should? That would be too civilized I guess. This dog is their baby, a princess, who in her mother's eyes can do no wrong. If you've seen one parent you've seen them all. My dad's wife comes flying over, her panties in a bind, and starts trying to restrain me! Can you believe it! Restrain me from a dog that has pinned me to the couch, slobbering all over my legs and feet. As I try to push the dog away this squat little woman tries to strong-arm me. A battle she will lose 10 times out of 10. She proceeds to give me a lesson on dog etiquette. I must behave in such a way for the dog to leave me alone. Who's the dog here? Is it me or am I the guest? "Train your dog, lady! I'm outta here," I say, rising from the couch on which I was pinned and asking me father to kindly retrieve the "holy water" so I can please be on my way.

But the wife continues to harangue me for the dog's obnoxious behavior. "If your dog accosts some stranger on the street," I tell her while waiting for my father to make the hand-off, "do you march up to the person and blame him or her, then try and tell them how they should behave to avoid getting assaulted again? Of course not. As the dog owner, the fault lies with you, bitch!" I didn't say bitch. Good manners are deeply ingrained. But I did wonder aloud how with such a rambunctious dog these people can ever entertain guests, and ventured a speculation as to why fewer and fewer people seem to come around any more. "Don't try and tell me how to handle your dog," I say. "I know exactly what to do. Not come over again."

Finally my father hands me the water and tells me to calm down. "I am calm," I say before walking out. "But you need to train your dog." Another wedge is driven into the already strained relationship I have with the old man. But it's convenient for me, since  most of the time I don't like going over there anyway and could always use an additional excuse. But I won't have the misbehaving dog excuse for long. Because in my inbox this morning I found the following message from my dad's lady: 

Dear Adam,

I'm sending you my sincere apologies for the distress Daisy has caused. As well as my thanks for you conveying how her obnoxious behavior makes visiting unpleasant.

I should have acknowledged the issue.

I've scheduled obedience classes to work on correcting her. For the last thing I want is for our dog to be the reason you or others avoid coming over. xoxoxo

My reply:

No problem and glad I could "help." And glad you weren’t hurt. I don’t have to be a trainer to tell you that when owners step between their dogs and other people, as you did when you attempted to strong-arm me away I don't know why, a dog can get confused by the aggression and injuries can ensue. You can ask my father what happened when our dog Bailey encountered another dog whose owner tried to intervene. The result was a broken hip and a million-dollar lawsuit. It makes one wonder who the obedience classes are really for, the dog or its owner. But Daisy is very sweet.

Nevertheless I promptly call my half-sister and say I won't be able to join them for Thanksgiving. A two-hour car ride with those two ogres (and I'm not talking about Daisy) is more than a guy even with my patience can bear. My mom says the water is now "tainted" and in the future if my father wishes for her to have some he can leave it at the doorstep rather than involve me. At least that bitch will get some lessons on how to behave. And as for Daisy, she really is a sweet dog.

Ben Stiller (in that '07 movie he appeared in with his father) summarized it best at the film's end when he said: "Ah, love love love love love love love."

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