Gilly

About two years ago, we welcomed into our house a little asshole we named Gilfoyle. He is at least in part a Lancashire Heeler, a very small dog designed to move large animals. You want to succeed at that job, you better be an asshole.

Gilly sleeping with eyes open. Because the world is full of danger.

Right now he is under my desk, sleeping on my foot, snoring a little bit. Wherever I sit down to work, he will always be close by. He loves Mommy more, but I stay still.

In the evenings, there is a routine. After a few minutes of snacks and training the dogs and the humans take their places on the couch. Gilly (after sniffing the outside air, drinking water, and rubbing his face on the floor) jumps up on the couch (with a tiny, tiny bit of assistance) and takes his place against my left thigh.

Sometimes, if the Official Sweetie and I are still snacking, some tiny treats will also reach the canine elements of our pack. Last night we were eating chips, and now and then a tiny piece of chip would find its way to the pups. They do likes them some chips.

But then I offered Gilfoyle a chip and he went totally fuckin’ nuts. He bit my finger and then went after any part of my body he could reach, barking and flashing teeth and… I dunno, fighting for his life?

I should have been more ready. I had been sipping Tequila, and I’ve seen plenty of times before that when I’m drinking liquor Gilly is much more volatile.

It breaks my heart. I don’t know Gilfoyle’s history, but I can make a few guesses. When Dad’s been drinking, prepare to fight for your life. I will never erase that impulse. I can never love this dog so hard that those scars go away. But Gilfoyle, my friend, my foot warmer, I will never hurt you. I promise.

Dogs and Tennis

I’ll admit it, yesterday I snuck over to Facebook to see what people have been saying about my more recent episodes (I probably log in to Facebook as often as once a month these days). In response to my recent episode about getting creative with sports, Candace Reedy said, “I always thought golf and tennis would be greatly improved by retrieving dogs…”

I agree wholeheartedly. And dogs and tennis balls? It’s as natural as beer on Friday. I once wrote somewhere in the million-plus words of this blog, that if dogs could raise a statue, it would be to honor the person who invented the tennis ball.

The Round Mound of Hound in intensive training.

So — dogs and tennis. Obviously a good idea. But how, exactly, would it work? I’m here to help make that real. You don’t have to thank me, it’s what I do.

Overall, I think dogs would add two things to the game: chaos and slobber.

Let’s think about slobber. You’re going to have wet-ball players and dry-ball players. When you serve a ball that is sodden with dog drool, it will feel like you’re hitting a lead weight. If you serve with the usual overhead motion, you will be launching a slug and while it might not get over the net quickly, when it touches the surface on the other side, it will drop flatter than a biological slug. The ultimate dream of topspin players to keep the ball low to the surface on the bounce; with a drool-ball there will hardly be a bounce at all.

But when you toss that saturated ball over your head, dog spittle spinning off, droplets shining in the sun, your opponent will know what is coming, and rush the net. So what do you do instead? The lob-serve. Hit it deep, keep it squishy, and your opponent will be forced to hit it on the volley rather than let it “bounce” – a relatively tough shot.

But here’s were things could get tedious. Your opponent is just as restricted as you are concerting shot options. She will be sending a lob right back. Not exactly the recipe for excitement.

Except, of course, there are dogs on the court! And the right dog for this game will be expert at shagging lobs. But then what happens? Simple: If the dog catches the ball on the volley, it’s a point for the dog’s team. If the dog catches it on the first bounce, no points for either side, a do-over. The dog can enjoy the ball for a limited time, juicing it up, but when her teammate says “drop”, the ball is returned to play.

Imagine you’re Roger Federer, able to serve a thousand miles an hour, give or take. You’re a dry-ball player. Your dog is an Australian Cattle Dog, nimble as all get-out and filled with energy, but is well-trained to give the ball back before it is too sodden. Your dog’s name is something like “Ace.” 

Today you’re facing an up-and-coming dog-tennis player named Casey, a scrambler in the Michael Chang mold, and his canine teammate Luna, a youngster of uncertain parentage with strong legs and an almost limitless supply of drool. Casey is good at deflecting hard serves so that Luna can have a shot at them, and Casey’s scrambling style will eat you alive once things get sloppy. A classic wet/dry showdown!

Stuff like that is what sport is all about.

One of My Favorite Stories has Changed

Harken back with me, to 1985, the year I turned 21. In our mighty nation, it is an obligation to celebrate this momentous birthday with alcohol. There was a catch, however. My Most Significant Birthday Anniversary fell on a Sunday, and in 1985 in New Mexico, Sundays were no-booze days.

However, as a physics major I was able to count, and I realized that to have a boozy party on Sunday, I would need to buy the supplies the day before. It was a bullet-proof plan.

Except that Saturday night at New Mexico Tech is a time of madness, and friends came by and word of booze leaked out and so forth… and we drank it all. My roommate and I awoke Sunday morning, having promised a party that night, and having no alcohol.

I put out some feelers to see if I could scrounge the booze, but no dice. That left only one choice: Arizona. I can tell you now that it is 156 miles by Alfa Romeo odometer from my dorm room in Socorro to the closest booze store in Springerville, Arizona.

But highway 60 is a joy to drive, up through Magdalena, past the VLA, though Datil and Quemado, and over the continental divide at Pie Town. It was cold, but I had the top down and my friend Jane in the passenger seat, the heater was roaring, and the Alfa was feeling frisky that day.

I was driving just a tad over the posted speed limit. By “tad” I mean roughly 60% over the speed limit when the cop topped the hill right in front of me. Busted. I pulled over, and waited while the officer drove to a place where he could turn around safely, and returned to have a conversation with me.

There are tactics he used, which I have since learned are Standard Lies Cops Tell to Get Their Way. He said I’d have to follow him back to the station if I didn’t let him search my vehicle. I could have responded with “Am I under arrest?” but I was a dumb kid and I didn’t have anything to hide.* So I helped him search my car. It turns out I did have something to hide, but the guy just chuckled at the brick of bottle rockets in the glove box.

Without the heater it was pretty chilly at that altitude in early spring, and my co-pilot and I were stomping our feet and blowing into our hands. The cop laughed at that as well. “I remember when I was young and stupid,” he said, looking at the top-down sports car. He never actually finished searching the car.

Eventually he wrote me a ticket, and we continued on to Springerville at a much more sedate pace. We found the liquor store, and bought one of everything. Home we went, to a birthday party that had not a single female guest. So it goes.

It’s a good story. I especially like the “young and stupid” bit. The search was likely because highway 60 had become a major drug conduit from El Paso to Los Angeles. But the cop and I had even shared a chuckle, despite my flaying of the speed limit. And for many years after, I have enjoyed telling that story.

But you could change one thing about that whole encounter, and everything would have been different. You could add pigment to my skin. If I were black, or even brown, there would have been no chuckles. I would have been lying face-down in the prickly weeds on the side of the road, backup troopers watching over me, while my car was systematically dismantled. Before I could re-assemble it, the Alfa would have been towed, the impound fee more than the car was worth. The bottle rockets would have put me in jail overnight.

Fun story, right?

___

* “I don’t have anything to hide” sounds great until you’ve established the assumption that resisting search is implicitly an admission that you have something to hide.