Playful intelligence

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Dolphins are regarded as some of the most intelligent animals…is it any wonder that they’re also some of the most playful?

They play with bubbles:

And dogs:

They like hanging out with surfers:

Oh, and they’re vain:

Modern day heroics

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Antonio Diaz Chacón, hero

I recently read Esquire Magazine’s December article “Patriots: A portfolio of Americans who stepped up in 2011.” While all six stories are inspiring in their own ways, I was particularly impressed with the actions of Antonio Diaz Chacón and Christine Marty. Here are their stories:

Last summer, Antonio Diaz Chacón did something dangerous and risky because he didn’t really see any other choice. He heard a neighbor shouting that a little girl had just been abducted, so he jumped in his truck and gave chase. At first the driver of the van didn’t seem to know he was being followed. But then the van began to speed up and to veer this way and that before sliding off the road and crashing into a pole on the outskirts of Albuquerque. The driver ran, stashing a roll of tape and some straps under a rock. Chacón hopped out of his truck and grabbed the girl. She was confused and scared, but he told her that everything was going to be all right, that he would take her home, and that’s exactly what he did.

Four years ago, Chacón did something else dangerous and risky because he didn’t really see any other choice. He left his impoverished home in Chihuahua, Mexico, and snuck across the border near Santa Teresa. Married now, with steady work as a mechanic, he still doesn’t have his immigration papers.

Which means that Antonio Diaz Chacón is both a great American and not an American at all.


Christine Marty and her mother had just gone back-to-school shopping in Pittsburgh. She bought a dark-gray pair of BDG jeans, a Sparkle & Fade sweater, and some tank tops she could wear to both dance and accounting class. On the way back home, they could barely see the road. The Lexus RX 300’s defogger was broken, so Marty had to wipe the windshield down with a rag — then, gridlock. Pouring rain. Flooding. The water rose and soon began to fill up inside the car and to submerge their laps. And then the car itself was floating, like a bumper car, crashing into the other bumper cars along the street. By the time they got out — Marty through the window, her mother through the sunroof — they could hear the screaming of Romy Connolly, sixty-nine years old and suffering from lung cancer. Marty swam over and pulled Connolly out the window. With Connolly tucked under her left arm, she fought the current with her right. But Connolly had all but given up. She didn’t want to hold on anymore, she just wanted to let go. Then the praying started. Marty began reciting the Our Father, and Connolly mouthed the words. Everything was going to be okay. And soon it was.

But you don’t have to be an American, or even a human to be a hero! An incredible video came out of Chile, where a dog braved highway traffic to drag another dog who’d been hit out of harm’s way:

Maxine Maxine, my beautiful dog

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Monday’s post was somewhat deceptive; I wrote it as though I haven’t been making money off dog-walking recently. The truth is, to tide me through a few financially unstable months I dog-sat for several families. These arrangements were mutually beneficial as the dog owners were assured that their animals would get nothing but the best care, and I was able to splurge on buying deodorant (but not any fancy kind–money was tight, ok?)

I also viewed my dog-sitting episodes as trial periods to see if I was ready to once again have a dog of my own. I took care of several different breeds and sizes of dogs, but even though I enjoyed being with all the them I always came to the same conclusion: there will just never be another dog like my Max.

Yes, I know my face is irresistible

My family got Max, a yellow lab-goldenretriever mix, when I was four years old. I was obsessed with The Little Mermaid at the time, and thus thought Max was the only acceptable name for a dog (just like Prince Eric’s dog). My brother agreed, but my mother protested. We had gotten a girl dog, after all.

Our solution to naming our little puppy was to each write two potential monikers on slips of paper, then dump them on the floor. Whichever slip of paper our puppy began to eat first would become her name.

Conceding somewhat to my mom’s pleas that we should write girl names on the papers, I wrote Maxine on one and Emerald on the other. (My dad, however, ignored my mom’s gender-specific request and wrote down Noam Chompsky and Labrador Dali). We put the eight names in a hat, and dumped them on the floor.

The first slip of paper we pried loose from our puppy’s mouth, covered with slobber and slightly shredded, said, in my four-year-old’s handwriting, Maxine. My mom rolled her eyes, but then said excitedly, Every dog needs a middle name! Let’s have her choose again. Max needed no incentive to start chewing on more paper, and we pulled another slip from her mouth.

This one said…Maxine. It was my brother’s handwriting. And so our dog became Maxine Maxine. (When my mom registered Max at our local vet, though, she conveniently forgot Max’s middle name and gave Max her own last name).

While Max sometimes ran away, ate garbage, had accidents in the living room, and rolled in dead fish, she was also the sweetest creature in the world. She lived until just after I went away for my freshman year of college, thereby accompanying the entirety of my conscious childhood. Though she died seven years ago I still feel her absence acutely. I don’t think I’m ready for a new dog.

Dog memes, dog mimes

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I saw this posted on a friend’s facebook page a few weeks ago and re-posted; a week later it seemed everyone had posted it. I guess that’s the nature of adorable, funny, short youtube videos–they spread like fleas.

And, just for the heck of it, here’s another talking dog:

Dog jokes

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I got my dad a page-a-day calendar of dog cartoons this year. When I explained to my boyfriend this choice of gifts, I noted, “My dad loves dog jokes.” He frowned. “Dog jokes? Like, what do you call a dog who does tricks–Roll Rover?” “No, not dog puns, dog jokes!” And so I told him a few of my favorites, which I will now recount here:

I bet this dog likes a good dog joke

Two guys were walking their dogs when they passed a bar. It was a hot day so one guy said to the other, you wanna stop in for a drink? The other guy says, Yeah, but I don’t think they allow dogs in. The first guy shrugs and goes in with his dog. The bartender calls out, I’m sorry, we don’t allow dogs in here. The guy says, This is my seeing-eye dog. The bartender lets the first guy stay, so the second guy goes in with his dog. The bartender says again, I’m sorry, we don’t allow dogs here, and the second guy says, This is my seeing-eye dog. The bartender says, You have a chihuahua for a seeing-eye dog? and the guys shouts, They gave me a chihuahua?!

On that note: A guy walks in to a bar with his seeing-eye dog. He starts swinging the dog around on its leash, and the bartender calls out What are you doing?! The guy says, Just looking around.

And lastly: A dog wanted to place an ad in the paper to sell his bone. The guy at the paper says, What do you want your ad to say? The dog answers, Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof. The guy says, You know, you can add one more word for the same price. And the dog says, But that wouldn’t make any sense!

How to be a dog walker


What you’ll need: a leash, a multitude of plastic bags

Songlist: Who Let the Dogs Out? by Baha Men, Salty Dog Rag by Red Foley

Further reading: The Hidden Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Marley and Me by John Grogan

Dogs: the best thing ever created (not that I'm biased)

Last year, my doorbell rang. A thin man with oiled hair stood outside with a clipboard in his hand. Upon seeing me, he launched into a narrative of redemption. He was trying to sell me something—a magazine subscription or ecstasy or Jesus, I couldn’t tell which—but first he had to draw me in.

“Ma’am,” he said, “What’s your profession?”

“I’m a teacher,” I said. Minnesota Reading Corps-Americorps Literacy Tutor at Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary—my official title—was more information than he needed.

“And what was your first job?”

“Um, walking a dog.”

“So, think about it. You’ve gone from picking up shit to educating our young people, arguably the most important profession in the world.”

In fact, I had gone from making ten dollars for each half hour walk to a position where I calculated my earnings to be about four to five dollars an hour. And I went from picking up a small pile of literal shit to dealing with the metaphorical shit of ineffective bureaucracy, difficult coworkers, and the special needs of homeless, neglected, and mentally disabled children. Metaphor trumps literal.

Iberian ham in a handy ham-holder. Yum!

Since I graduated college in 2008, I have somehow managed to make successively less money every year. My first job was as a Language and Cultural Assistant at an elementary school in southern Spain. Compared to my fellow Dartmouth graduates’ starting salaries of 70Gs at consulting firms and financial institutions, my 700€ a month stipend didn’t seem like much. However, I was placed in a tiny town where the only items in the grocery store more expensive than about three euro were the cured pigs’ legs. Plus, I was only required to work twelve hours a week (thank you, siesta culture), and, after all, these were euros we were talking about.

Then came the AmeriCorps job. Service to our country cannot be underestimated, but it sure can be underpaid. Daily, I came home exhausted, unable to do much more than read my horoscope for the day already past and fall asleep. I was in awe of two of my co-tutors who held other part-time jobs in addition to our forty-five-hour weeks at the school. They soon quit their other jobs.

AmeriCorps ended last July, and I decided not to renew my contract for one more year. I now work as a receptionist at an oriental medicine health clinic. Besides the bonus of free acupuncture whenever I want—who needs health insurance when you’ve got needles!—I make ten dollars an hour. However, the clinic is small and my help is needed only four to eight hours a week. I now have plentiful time and energy to write.  So far, though, I haven’t found anyone to pay me for that, and my funds are running low for the trussed up coffee drinks I buy during my café writing sessions.

Maybe I should just go back to dog walking.

Great proposals

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Everyone loves a good proposal story. Searching “marriage proposals” on YouTube brings up approximately a bazillion home videos of guys finding somewhat creative ways to make their girlfriends cry (in a good way!) It’s funny how, no matter what the creative scheme is, these videos all end up following the same script: a guy grins like an idiot, and a girl covers her face and cries in shock.

In fact, this first video skips that element, as the video itself is the proposal. Adorable.

Audience participation is always fun. Who wouldn’t love dozens of roses from strangers?

This video could be edited down, but on the plus side the ring-bearer is a dog. Perfect!

Do you have a great proposal story? From your own life, friends, family members?