Dolly: An Introduction

Dolly and Julia
Julia and I met, and within the week, she was driving with me from New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I lived with Maud, who was sixteen at the time. Toby had just sold me his 1987 VW van with a mattress in the back, and that’s what we were driving. But this story is not about Julia and me and our wild ride. This story is about Dolly.

Dolly is a tiny shih tzu, not one of those big guys with an underbite who move like caterpillers. She weighs less than ten pounds, she has button eyes, and, if you were going to categorize her as either a movie dog or a stuffed animal (one of Maud’s childhood filing systems), she’d be a stuffed animal. She was two or three when I met her.

Dolly and Maud, asleep
Dolly traveled with us to Nova Scotia, and didn’t complain at all: not when we stopped in the parking lot of an old white library somewhere in Massachusetts, and slept under a blaring street lamp. Not when we took a food break somewhere up there, at the sort of place that has menus the size of surf boards, all laminated, and food that they bring out in buckets. I remember looking back at the van in the vast and empty parking lot as we trekked toward the place, and seeing Dolly looking out from the back window at us, disappearing into the night, O.K. to be a tiny shih tzu all alone in the world.

Very soon after we arrived in Halifax, a hurricane hit the city so hard that part of the roof was torn off the building where I worked at the Shambhala Sun. The two fantastic parks in the city were basically destroyed, people were killed, and we didn’t have gas or electricity for several days. The Big Slice lost its “S,” and remained, for a while, The Big Lice. Julia and I found the only coffee in town.

We brought a bunch back for the neighbors, who had set up barbecues outside of their houses, and cooked, every day, the stuff that would other be rotting in people’s refrigerators. This is Canada, and it was truly lovely. Anyway, on this particular day, we were standing outside the house where Maud and I lived on the second floor, chatting, and I was holding a tray with four lattes.

All of sudden, the universe ended. That is, the sky fell. That is something flew from above me, landed on my head, hard, hit the lattes, and fell to the ground with the tray. It was Dolly. She’d jumped off of our second-story porch, onto my head. She was OK, and I was OK. It was…a strange thing for her to do. (Maybe Bodhi and Scout, both well at the time, were inside torturing her—I wouldn’t put it past them.)

Anyway. I haven’t talked much about Dolly, except at the beginning of this blog. Since her first trip to Halifax, I’ve become her other mommy, though I doubt that Julia would agree with that, being so completely possessive of that particular being. Still, I’ve taken her to the vet when she had a terrible ear infection (or other kinds of unmentionable infections), and she was too brave for a tiny shih tzu. I’ve shooed away Fat Dave when he’s made her cry. I’ve fallen asleep, many, many times, with her in the crook of my legs, and sometimes even, when it’s thundering, with her shaking and panting on top of my head.

Now I’m warning you. Dolly is unexpectedly very sick. And that’s one reason why I haven’t written. I haven’t known what to say. Like Kevin, she is someone else’s bestfriend. Like Kevin, she is a tiny hero.


I'm Not in Kansas Anymore (Or Am I?)

So I took a drive to Mattituck today, still on North Fork of Long Island, but more vineyard than harbor. There’s a restaurant there called Love Lane Kitchen, where high-school-aged kids in black t-shirts serve crazy-good food. (“What can I get you?” the blond waitress with the teeth so just off braces that you can still see the braces there, asked. “Um, I think I’ll have the mango and avocado salad,” you say, a little unsure because it’s 9:30 in the morning and you’d really like the stuffed french toast. “Oh my God!” she says, as if she’s just been asked out on a date by Dom*, but is probably just being nice because she sees your dilemma, “That looks so good!”)

When I left, and was walking to my car, not one but three old men said good morning to me. None of them were using walkers or driving in motorized wheelchairs, but pretty much all of them were hunched over and walking like they had glass stuck in the bottom of their feet, and like the beachballs under their shirts were pushing on their belt buckles and making them have to pee.

It was nice of them to say good morning, and I liked it, but, because it was me, I still had to start imagining that if we actually had a conversation, I’d discover they were all three horrible, arrogant, Republican windbags. I tried to change the channel on my mind, and imagine them as brilliant artists—men who would entertain me over good Italian espresso by making delicate origami animals, but I couldn’t get the windbaggery out of my mind. (“I’m burning, I’m burning!”)

Just about then a woman walked by me in her Spandex clothes and her fanny pack—she was older than you, but not much older than me, and so she was a little bit chunky—and she said “Hi!” as if she’d just taken the same drug I had, and knew it. O.K., so people out here are charming.

It reminds me of when Maud and I had just moved to Nova Scotia from Brooklyn, and the waitress at the local Greek diner came over and was asking how we were, in a characteristically super-friendly Haligonian way. (In Halifax, talking about the weather is a really, really nice thing to do.) Maud, who was maybe not quite fifteen, said, “What’s wrong with her?” Exactly. I got her out of New York just in time.

Probably a day or two later, we were invited over to a friend of a friend’s house, and all the dharma-brat girls around Maud’s age were invited over too. (Halifax, in case you don’t know, has a very big American-ex-pat Buddhist community.) The next thing I knew, she was getting in a car with five teenagers with experience in altered states through meditation, all waving and smiling, and I barely saw her again for the next three years.** I’m pretty sure she was out asking people how they were all over the place.

*Hi Maud!
**That’s a total lie. A lot of Amy’s pizzas (plain), and a large variety of cereals, were consumed in our house.