Journal entry: January 7, 1977 (age 7) – Family Name
When you’re the mother of six sons, you look for female allies wherever you can find them. To give our house some balance, my mom recently adopted a female Springer Spaniel named Bridget. We also have a female Siamese cat named Ruby. Together, the two girl-pets give Mom some solace in a world of Mollen men.
To Mom’s dismay, however, Bridget has turned out to exhibit many unladylike qualities. Her purebred features are marred by her upper lip’s tendency to catch on one of her canine teeth. (They’re all canine, but you know what I mean.) The skewed mouth and exposed, yellow teeth make her look like a country hick with a hayseed stuck in her mouth – the dim sort who says things like “I ‘spect I better catch me some crawdads before I head over to old Jasper’s place for the bait festival.”
Oftentimes, when my mom gives Bridget a bath, another one is required within 12 hours. This is because the bathtub hosedown is typically followed by a prison break that leads the four-legged beauty queen to West End Park. There, she can roll in dirt, or, on rainy days, mud. Inevitably, she shambles back home and plops down on our porch, looking like a pitcher’s mound with eyes.
Bridget acts especially, sloppily male when it comes to food. Watching her eat Gaines-Burgers is like witnessing a vampire tear into an open-faced, virgin-neck sandwich. (It’s messy.) But actual “dog food” isn’t Bridget’s preferred cuisine. Whenever she manages to escape our yard or slip her leash, her hind legs can be found dangling over the edge of the dumpster outside Pancho’s Pit. If you think the name of the restaurant is unappetizing, you should see its dumpster, which my father refers to as Dante’s Pit. (I’m not sure what he means, but I think Dante may be the name of a dog he had as a kid.)
For the past few weeks, Bridget hasn’t had to walk the half-mile to Pancho’s to indulge in her fondness for filth. The city’s garbage men are on strike, so rising from every curb on every street is a mountain range of garbage cans with poorly secured lids and overstuffed, one-ply trash bags. Bridget has never been happier. Or rounder. Or more fragrant.
And now she’s famous. During the sign of peace at Mass this morning, some guy my dad knows shook his hand and said, “Hey, congrats – I see your family made this morning’s paper!” The whole family was running late before church, so none of us had time to look at the newspaper.
When we got home, we all gathered around the kitchen table as Dad flipped through the pages. The cover story on the Local section was about the garbage strike. The accompanying photo showed a particularly putrid pile of rotting refuse, in the middle of which stood our very dirty, very happy dog. The caption didn’t mention Bridget, but she was pictured prominently, as if to say, “The trash epidemic has reached the point where our streets are overrun by wild dogs and their apocalyptic companions: plague and lawlessness.”