Angela Bocage

Seconds like these; Mosquito girl; and dogs like Merle

What a fantastic week. Full of energy, with my Berekiah dog feeling good and eating well, I’ve been drawing and writing and talking to fantastic people who feed my brain and heart, and reading great books. Some who know me will understand my pleasant surprise and delight at a new level of ability to quiet the over-thinking, anxious, horrid-scenario-pumping-out, noisome chatter of my monkey mind. Meditation, yoga, music, dogs, exercise, fresh vegan food? Or–or could my Official First Mosquito Bite of the Summer earlier this week have been……..radioactive?!

[Comicbook fantasies duly cued—Watch out, hatahz: it’s Mosquito Girl! Capable of annoying the hell out of any one person, even the Dalai Lama! Or  a whole roomful! Like the Kolot Chayeinu congregation on a Day of Awe!  She can fly (erratically, but yeah, guess you’d have to call it that)! On broadcast media she can annoy the hell out of millions at a time! Not only by her essence-sucking curiosity, but even at a distance, via Mosquito-humming with the exact opposite of perfect pitch… Ahem. Anyway. Silly’s part of it, honesty’s part of it, but the key might conceivable be mitigating the merciless self-loathing a tad; it’s so distracting…]

Am increasingly thankful for my awesome housemate and the loving, smart, sneaky funny dogs who share our lives. We do our best to listen to them and learn from them, but she can seriously read their minds, I’d swear to that in court, so she was demonstrating her considerable kind wisdom by lending me Merle’s Door, by Ted Kerasote, and thinking I’d like it. An account of a man’s adoption of a young stray and their subsequent life together, this book blew me away—super-nutrition for the mind of any dog lover, trainer, or anyone who works or lives with canines.

I am a right snot about dog books, and do not apologize. What we know about, do with, and teach our dogs is literally a matter of life and death for them. If you never read another word of dog lit, flip through Ian Dunbar’s gentle, witty masterpiece, How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks just to read his brief snapshot-like selections from the brief biography of a badly socialized, haphazardly trained dog. And note how normal it sounds. And then, if you like, check the statistics regarding how many “pet” dogs are euthanized before their second birthday.

For over a decade, I’ve been studying with APDT-member trainers (the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, one of whose founders is Dr. Ian Dunbar), formally observing classes taught by CPDTs (Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the APDT certificate of expertise as measured through broad knowledge, substantial practice, and requiring continuing education), assistant teaching now and then, and taking both my canine friend and several foster kids through CPDT-taught puppy, “teen,” pre-agility and obedience classes. My first teacher, the awe-inspiringly quick, intuitive, dog-observant Deb Manheim, could see the fascination thus inspired, and introduced me to the APDT, the Dogwise book site, and the required reading list for CPDTs. Vast, eternal gratitude, Deb! The balanced, thorough, and scientifically current approach taken by this training organization and the breadth and quality of the literature they recommend opened my eyes to the minds, behavior, and whole world of dogs in ways I could never have foreseen.

When I began Merle’s Door, I admit to some trepidation that this would be another example of poetic wankage (see, e.g.,  Jeffrey Moussaieff [ck splg)…full of testimony to the author’s being a sensitive dude and an excellent writer, but far lighter on real insight into the canine mind.

Slap my face and call me Susan: Kerasote’s the real-ass thing, citing real anthropology, real science, even tracing the twists and turns the science has taken in our own adult lifetimes. A few examples: he cites the Belyaev study, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, Patricia McConnell, and Dr. Dunbar, reviews the recent archeological thinking on the human-facing-canine burial finds, and manages to tell a good story in which he seemed to, hallelujah, actually listen to what his dog was teaching him! Highly recommended.


Spring IS gonna come.

I’ll simply have to insist! A couple days in the last week when the snow had melted and I could walk along actual damp SIDEWALK…and then this last couple days’ vaunted blizzard being a “Feh, THAT you call a blizzard?!” sort of event for the now-ever-so-much-more hardy citizens who’ve been digging out from several feet, and I’m convinced. Yup. Spring! Maybe not THIS week, but…it’ll get here.

This spring at the Willliam Way center in Philadelphia my friend Pearlette Toussant is presenting a supremely cool event—which she’s already blackmailed me into attending because now that I’m dating again, girl has way too much inculpatory evidence which, while formally inadmissible as hearsay, could prejudice my case.*

On Tuesday, March 25 at 6:00, jumping off from the lobby of the center, to “Whet Your Appetite for Spring:” a walking tour of Philly’s Gayborhood to pick out all manner of places and things creatively includable in romantic spring date plans—but ahead of time so we’re not all frantic! Whee! This is also just a cool way for newcomers or visitors to Philadelphia to learn their way around and discover some amusing, healthy, fun and fascinating LGBTQ destinations, for Philadelphians of all tenures to meet nice people, and for everybody to enjoy.

*Anyone who knows me knows what a big lie that is; if I were a language I wouldn’t have a word for “overshare,” or “TMI”!** I love information! It’s all about the information…which reminds me to recommend, as well, Lisa Lutz’ shriekingly funny, like when you can’t help but yelp like a sea lion with laughter,  Curse of the Spellmans! A lot more than funny, too, in its unsparing but ultimately nonjudgmental portrayal of a most non-traditional family. (“Uh, I request Mal Blum’s ‘For Making Art’ song plizz, goin’ out to Lisa Lutz…”) I hope the first one, The Spellman Files, is as good, since I’ve accidentally ended up reading them out of order, but I’ll let you know when I read it, which WILL be as soon as possible!

(**In terms of MY life I’m like that proverbial open book, that is. Secrets told to me, I keep to the grave. Serious as an aneurysm about that.)

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