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Ethel the dog

this is Ethel in her American Apparel sweatshirt. YES.

this is Ethel in her American Apparel sweatshirt. YES.

I think it’s about time I told you about Ethel, world.

This dog, one year ago, had a weird bald spot shaved in the scruff on the back of her neck, from where they did the spinal tap. She’d caught doggie meningitis, spent several days in the UW Veterinary Hospital, been put on a stiff regiment of steroids to keep the swelling around her spinal chord down. We’d cancelled our tickets to Hanoi, moved temporarily to New York to live with my dad while she recuperated, and eventually re-booked tickets to Hanoi. Ethel was ferocious, ‘roid raging at other dogs on the sidewalk, at cats in the neighborhood, at strangers who looked at her funny. She sat in a box for 27 hours from New York to Vietnam, and was excited to see Andrew and I when delivered to us on a dolly. On her first night in Hanoi, a toddler threw a shoe at her face, twice. Maybe I’m imagining things, but on the walk home from the cafe that evening, I’m pretty sure both she and Andrew she were giving me the “what the f*!k are we doing here?” look.

Ethel is a great example of how much personality pets pack into small bodies. She’s short, awkward looking, and confident in her position as center of the universe. Here is an Ethel anecdote, I call it “the Donut”

***
The Donut
While Andrew was in America with his family, Ethel and I went on two long walks each day. She looked a bit mournful when I came home alone each evening, so I figured more time wandering the city, smelling the smells and eating the scraps, would improve her mood. A few nights before he returned, we walked a few blocks down the street to a take-away coffee joint called “Passio: Passion without the N”. We’re not sure what it means either. Every evening, a crowd of people in small groups sit on little plastic stools covering the sidewalk. Teenagers in green aprons and matching visors move around quickly, delivering sweet blended drinks by the tray-full.

I wanted an iced coffee.

Holding Ethel on the shortest possible leash, I walk up to the counter. Tell her to sit. I place an order, stand to the side. Tell her to sit again (Ethel’s attention span is readily evident, “sit” has never lasted more than 15 seconds). I wait for a few minutes; the place is packed and the three guys manning blenders are flying. I watch Ethel the whole time, people are cooing at her and though she gives a few of them the stink-eye, she doesn’t bark or growl. I pay, take my coffee, and we go. Walking through the corridor of sidewalk, among the groups of teens and families and friends sitting low to the ground, drinking coffee, eating snacks, I feel like I’m in the clear. She’s been well behaved, I have a coffee, it’s a good night.

And then, with no advance warned…Ethel lunged at a toddler leaning up against his mother.

…well technically, I guess, she lunged at the donut (with chocolate frosting) in the toddler’s hand…since she didn’t even touch the kid but she did obtain a donut.

I froze, and stared. The child burst into instant and hysterical tears. The entire family of the child burst into loud laughter. Ethel is – meanwhile – consuming the donut on the sidewalk so fast that she is gagging. The donut is gone before I realize I’m supposed to do something and try to pry it out of her mouth. I grab her, apologizing profusely, head back inside, buy another donut for the child. The family is still laughing, and most of the 50 people outside are watching the entire scene.

My dog stole a chocolate donut from a baby. Highlight of 2014, unless something truly spectacular happens.

***

There are other exciting moments in her little dog life. Our cleaning lady Binh comes twice a week, and Ethel definitely thinks the primary purpose is play date. Pile of clean clothes dumped on the bed for folding? Better romp through them and roll around. Going downstairs to water the plants? Better come along and dig a hole chasing a phantom rodent in the garden, spraying dirt all over the driveway. I have guesses as to how Binh feels about Ethel. There are conical hats to bark at and the Cuban Embassy to poop in front of every single time we walk that way (we live two blocks from the Cuban Embassy). There are random bones and food scraps to grab when I’m not looking, items to be carried home stealthily and “hidden” in the corner of the bedroom. Once she got what I’m pretty sure was a pork knee all the way upstairs before I noticed it in her mouth. You can imagine how much fun it was wrestling that jewel away from her. What a jerk.

In summary? Ethel’s still awesome.

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1 reply »

  1. Cristina this was super funny, I was cracking up through most of the article especially the part where Ethel stole a little kids donut. Mom and I both agreed that you are great at telling stories and making them hysterical.

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And then on one of those long days when I'm tired and reallllllly not in the mood to go home and read 16 essays, I get a text reminder of why I love this job. .
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