All things Dog

It’s amazing the things you learn over lunch. Three of us – all decades-long colleagues and friendsа – were catching up over soups and salads at a Honolulu watering hole when talk turned to dogs. M is now in the empty nest stage of life and has replaced her kids with a cute as a button dog. Meanwhile T is learning about how to manage owners and their pets at a brand new pet friendly rental apartment complex where she’s in charge of leasing.а One of the conditions of leasing is requiring owners to register their pets.

The exception is service dogs that are trained to ADA standards to help their disabled owners. According to the ADA, they perform services like guiding people who are blind, alerting the deaf, calming a person with PTSD, alerting and protecting people who are about to have a seizure, reminding the mentally ill to take their meds, and pulling wheelchairs. But some creative renters try to circumvent registration by claiming their dog is exempt because it’s a “comfort” dog. The term “comfort” being co-opted by certain humans who claim their animal is vital to their (the human’s) mental health. i.e., soothing frazzled nerves and chasing away the blues. Not to say that comfort or therapy dogs, as they’re also known, don’t serve a good purpose in the case of traumatized or deeply depressed people. They’re trained to give affection and comfort to folks in hospitals, hospices, retirement and nursing homes, college campuses, to people with autism, and in crisis situations. Good try though, renters. Just register them already.

I found a different kind of doggie relief completely by accident. On my last trip to Jamaica, I got sloppy applying suntan lotion and missed the top of one foot while frolicking in the intensely hot Jamaican sun.а (It certainly seemed more intense than the Hawaiian variety!) My foot was red and inflamed and itchy by the time I got to Miami where I made a stopover with family. Liberal applications of hydrocortisone weren’t helping much. But Jesse, the family pet, kept sniffing around the ailing foot and insisted on licking it vigorously.а Eeuww, Jesse! аTo my great amazement, the next morning the inflammation had disappeared and the itching was gone! Jesse sensed that this human was in distress and came to the rescue. The only thing missing was a cask of brandy! а

By the way, the belief that St. Bernard rescue dogs carried casks of brandy around their necks so that avalanche victims could revive themselves with a stiff drink is pure myth. Wikipedia says that 17th century monks at the Great St. Bernard Hospice in the Swiss Alps created the St. Bernard breed and trained them as rescue dogs because they were strong enough to cross deep snow drifts and could sniff out travelers by their scent. The last recorded rescue was in 1955. But the monks emphatically state that the dogs did not carry casks of brandy around their necks! Besides, under those circumstances, alcohol is medically contraindicated. Actually, the myth was traced back to 19th century English artist, Edwin Henry Landseer, who was known for his paintings of animals. It was his depiction of a St. Bernard with a cask around its neck that made it into folklore. Landseer is better known for the four bronze lions at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in London.

Back to my rescue by Jesse. аRecent research shows that certain things in dog saliva do help with healing – the chemical histatin speeds up healing, a protein called Nerve Growth Factor halves the time of wound healing, and nitric oxide inhibits bacterial growth and infection. But before you go looking for a dog to lick your wounds, there’s also the risk of picking up all sorts of parasites and bacteria from its saliva. In other words, don’t use your dog as a first aid kit.

I have to confess that I’m not a dog person. But I can understand the strong attachment humans share with their dogs, like the bond between DCI Barnaby and his lovable dog, Sykes, in my current favorite Brit detective drama, Midsomer Murders, now in its 16th season. I love that show! However, dog owners, nothing irritates me more than people who don’t clean up after their pets when they poo and leave smelly piles of it outside my house. To be fair, this goes for cat owners too. Fortunately, I don’t have to be the bad guy and confront lazy owners. I just complain to our resident manager who is the enforcer. аAnd if the smell is too intense and pervasive, I spray the area with a non-toxic odor remover. To be prepared for the next time, I think I’ll pick up some “Anti-Icky-Poo” spray, which is available on Amazon – free shipping if you’re a Prime member. а

Which takes me back to the lunch conversation with my friends and learning something new. Did you know that there’s a way for the pooch police to track you down if you don’t clean up after your pet?а You know that DNA doesn’t lie, right? Well, there’s a doggie DNA lab (Poo Prints in Knoxville, Tenn.) that helps condo and apartment managers identify the “poopetrators” so they can find and fine the owners. When this story appeared in Huffington Post a few years ago, the company had hundreds of properties in 30 states as clients. The takeaway from this is: Scoop your pooch’s poop or get busted! I wonder if my homeowners association would be interested?а

A coincidence

That “dog” spelled backwards is “god”?

The instinct to love.


My tree or yours?

Have you ever seen or read the absurdist play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett? I’ll be honest. I haven’t.

Here’s why: The play’s about two guys who spend two days waiting at a tree for the mysterious Godot. Godot never shows up.а And while they wait, the guys talk about all sorts of deep existential things like God, life, hope, and hopelessness. At the end of each day, a boy comes with the message that Godot wouldn’t be showing up. This pisses them off, but they just can’t seem to leave. For all I know, in this alternate reality, they’re still sitting there, waiting for Godot. аThe play has no plot, no character development, and it goes nowhere. One explanation is that Godot is a symbol of fulfillment for the two characters who are stuck in a life of monotony.а And they wait, but fulfillment never comes. аSo depressing.

So why did Waiting for Godot pop into my mind as I was trying to come up with a blog topic? I suppose its apropos, since it appears my brain had decided not to show up. Or maybe it had and I just didn’t realize it. Stream of consciousness can sometimes stir up a little brainstorm, so I decided to let it ride.

Here goes …

tree 2 glowing edge

Sitting by or under or in a tree can have wildly different results. Including running the risk of bird poop decorating your head. Or you could become enlightened like the Buddha as he sat under the bodhi tree.

To country music singer and songwriter Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson, a Coconut Tree on Maui was a great place to get a different kind of enlightenment.


Sunny sky as far as I can see

High up in a coconut tree

Up here with Willie

Sunny sky as far as I can see

Let’s get high in a coconut tree.

аOh yeah.

Then there’s the age-old story of аsweethearts pledging their fidelity when one of them goes to war. Most of you may not be old enough to remember this, but it’s a song about a World War II soldier telling his girl “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree … with anyone else but me.” Seems Johnny had reason to worry:

I just got word from a guy who heard

From the guy next door to me

The girl he met just loves to pet

And it fits you to a T.

So don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me

Till I come marching home.

Poor Johnny! This song was made famous by the legendary Glenn Miller and the Andrew Sisters, taking top spot on the Hit Parade in 1942 and staying there for four months. а(If you know what “to pet” means, you are old!)

Even more symbolic for troops on deployment far away from home is the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round an Ole Oak Treeаmade popular by Tony Orlando. It was assumed that the song was about a convict who’s about to be released from prison and sends a letter asking his girl to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in front of her house if she wants him back in her life. But the lyricist L. Russell Brown said emphatically that it was NOT about a convict coming home. Instead, it was inspired by an old tale about a Union prisoner who sent a letter to his girl that he was coming home from a confederate POW camp in Georgia. In more contemporary times, the yellow ribbon tied around a tree represents solidarity with our troops fighting wars in the Middle East, with the implied message to “bring our troops home.“ I couldn’t agree more.

We can also have a James Bond moment Underneath the Mango Tree with a very young Sean Connery and the Swiss starlet Ursula Andress. аThis is from the first movie in the James Bond film, Dr. No. Of course, it's all about seduction. And predictably our femme fatale has a typical Bond girl name – Honey Ryder.

аUnderneath the mango tree

Me honey and me can watch for the moon.

Underneath the mango tree

Me honey and me make boolooloop soon.


Underneath the moonlit sky

Me honey and I can sit hand in hand.

Underneath the moonlit sky

Me honey and I can make fairyland …Waiting for g


аGet the picture?а


The tree has its darker symbolism in the gut-wrenching poem written by a Jewish American, Abel Meeropol in 1937 to protest racism in America – Strange Fruit. He set it to music, and the iconic version by the soulful Billy Holiday was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.


Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.


Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.


Sadly, racism in all its hateful forms is still rampant today. Let’s hope that we don’t sow even more seeds for this bitter crop in our current election year madness.

On that dark note, it appears that Waiting for Godot did pay off after all. And just because two guys were sitting by a tree.

If you’re into symbolism, pick your tree:

Coconut – life giving nourishment

Apple – youth, joy

Oak – courage and power

Mango – love, fertility

Poplar – deep courage, faith


If I were a tree

Which one would I choose to be?

All of the above.


ай Maya Leland 2014