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Shelley Fraser Mickle's latest book is a departure from her previously published works of fiction, Replacing Dad and The Queen of October. In this nonfiction book, she not only proves that you can go home again; you've never really left. Mom's on the Loose humorously details how events throughout our lives continue to influence the person we keep reinventing ourselves into.
My dog is depressed. She lies under the grand piano with her tobacco-juice eyes closed. Won't even get up when I open a package of wieners, dragging out the tearing of the plastic wrap until all the crackling I am making sounds as if I am setting a fire. But there is no fire in her, not even to get up and investigate. When I hold the wieners in front of a fan to blow the smell toward her - nope - she just lies there, flat, like a rug or an Egyptian sphinx.
What started all of this was when my last child got his driver's license. No more carpools. My dog and I have been taken off the streets. We are home everyday now from two to six. For a while we watched Oprah, and then we'd go out and dig in the dirt around my house.
But my dog doesn't much care about Oprah, and not much more about the dirt. Giving up my carpooling has saddened her.
All those years she went with me to drop the kids off - first in the morning early, when I didn't look good or feel sweet - she'd sit in the back seat of my station wagon and fog up the windows while snapping her teeth. She'd terrify the drivers in the next lane so we could jockey in position to beat the bell. At 2:00 p.m. she'd wait by the back door to go again to pick the kids up. Just the sound of my taking the car keys out of my purse could make her do a tap dance like she had hot feet on the kitchen floor.
From the back seat of my station wagon, she'd hang her head out of the window and let her tongue trail. She is a big mean-looking dog, the kind that men in pick-up trucks with rifles in their back windows admire at red lights. It's not uncommon to have them roll down their windows and get her riled up by making faces at her and then call out to me, "Nice dog, lady."
She's gone to piano lessons and waited at the curb; she likes country music on the radio. She's gone to and come back from soccer practices, Halloween carnivals, and Boy Scout meetings.
Now that she's taken up her down-in-the-mouth spot under the grand piano, I am tempted to pick up the car keys and jiggle them, just to see if she is all right. But that seems cruel. So I have started wrapping the keys in a paper towel so they can be picked up in silence. Because there is nowhere that I go now that I do not park, get out, and stay awhile.
It's a sad event - to just up and change a dog's life with no good warning. She had no way to know that those little kids who played with her as a puppy would one day get cars of their own. Then go on, grow up, and move all the way out.
Yesterday, I felt so sorry for her that I picked up the keys and let her do her hot pepper dance, then headed on out to the car. We've traded in the station wagon. We have a sedan now. And I let her sit beside me in the front seat. As we drove out of the driveway, her big hairy head came on over and rested on my arm near the gear shift.
We made a loop out to the soccer field, then to the piano teacher's where we parked by the curb and listened to the radio. Then we spun on out to the school, even though it was closed. On the way home, I drove her through Burger King and ordered her a Whopper, all the way, but told them to hold the pickles and onions.
Next Sunday I plan to drive her around again. It seems the only decent thing to do for a blue dog.