I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey

Shannon Kernaghan I-Need-Dental-Work I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey Adventure Career Challenge Fashion Fun Humor Lifestyle Memoir Memories Parties Read Along Travel

I never forward chain letters or dire warnings that turn out to be hoaxes.  

But when a friend from Ottawa sent me a “Four things about me” email, my interest was piqued. She likes to watch TV crime shows, for example. And I’d forgotten that she’d traveled to Africa.

Not only did I enjoy reading her responses, I started filling in a few of my own.

I don’t suggest you take too much time from your day for questionnaires, especially if you’re the dentist scheduled to fill my tooth this afternoon. Please, I want you to concentrate on my molar, not your catamaran trip to the Galapagos Islands. 

Here goes . . . Four jobs I’ve had:

1. lingerie model
2. product demonstrator
3. realtor
4. bartender

Lingerie modeling was exciting and filled with crazy chaos; it also required too much attention to detail. Every part of me had to be polished and my appearance was always under scrutiny. How tiresome. And I would never be tall enough or attractive enough to make the pages of Vogue, although I had a fun run.

Fortunately I never fell off any dimly lit stages although my catwalk days are long over – I’m currently balancing a bag of frozen peas on my shin after walking into my own coffee table!

My product demonstrator career lasted one week. It’s difficult to sell an expensive manicure kit and it’s disheartening to hear “No thanks” all day. Total sales? Only one. I bought it out of guilt, considering I quit before the promotion ended. Lessons learned? Again, only one. Stay in school.

Working as a licensed real estate agent gave me confidence. Move over, manicure kit, a house was a big ticket item to sell. When purchasers invited me for dinner in their newly constructed homes and everybody was smiling, I loved my career.

But when their homes weren’t ready on time and those once-smiling customers had no place to live for a month, I felt less delighted. My ringing phone began to give me anxiety.

As for bartending, I enjoyed the high energy parties and celebrations but grew tired of dealing with of inebriated people. Drunks can get cranky and unreasonable. Wish I could still remember how to make a flaming Pousse Café.

See? There’s plenty you can discover about people. 

How about  . . . Four places I’ve been:

1. Cap Haitien, Haiti
2. Miami – both Florida and Manitoba
3. Minsk, Belarus
4. Cal-Nev-Ari, which borders California, Nevada and Arizona.

In Haiti, our tour guide had an artificial foot that spun in circles when he walked. Sometimes the foot locked in a backwards position and he’d realign it by a swift kick with his other foot.

In Cal-Nev-Ari, every second resident owned a small place. Their garages were plane hangars and their neighborhood streets were designed as runways. Paul and I explored the area for a month, which included a casino Christmas party with fascinating and off-the-grid locals.

There are more categories to this survey but I have to see a dentist about a tooth. Maybe I should add teeth to the survey under: Four things that need better care!

Hormones & Horoscopes Don’t Control Me

Shannon Kernaghan Hormones-and-Horoscopes-450 Hormones & Horoscopes   Don't Control Me Adventure Challenge Culture Family Food Fun Humor Memories Read Along Risk Sex

I enjoy the wisdom that fortune cookies hold. You can’t drag me away from my restaurant chair until I’ve read mine and everyone else’s. No fortune should go undigested, even if all are computer generated and duplicated into the millions.

Sometimes the advice is clever: “Never wear a watch that has more buttons than one has fingers.”

The best fortunes I’ve ever had were from my sister. Linda gave my husband a box called Miss Fortune Cookies – Fortunes for the Real World. The first one I opened read: “You will soon spend time in a foreign jail.” How cheering. Another was: “You’re paranoid, but that doesn’t mean the CIA isn’t tracking you.”

I have as much faith in fortune cookie advice as I have with my daily horoscope. I smirk at the fiery love life my stars promise to deliver: “You’ll find yourself in a romantic clinch that really sizzles tonight.”

Or, is this insight intended for my husband, since we share the same sign?

If I believed in horoscopes, that last one might worry me because Paul’s working out of town tonight . . . better give him a call and tell him how much I adore him, just to be on the safe side.

Rather than dwell on dashed romance, I’ll share more of Miss Fortune’s insights: “No matter how hard you lobby, they will not put a TV in your prison cell.” (Miss Fortune must have done some hard time, with all her references to incarceration.)

And then there’s my fave: “Hats lined with newspaper offer some protection against falling debris.” These are logical fortunes that go well with my mood.

Speaking of mood, my newsfeeds suggest that women should plan their schedules around their hormonal cycles. The findings are great in theory, but as with fortune cookies and horoscopes, not everything has practical applications.

This hormonology recommends my actions during a 28-day cycle. From days one to 14, I’m going to be interested in sex; however, on days 22 and 23, I might as well re-caulk the tub. The fireworks aren’t going to be spectacular.

I’ve no idea how these experts coordinate their lives, but postponing events isn’t always feasible, or friendly.

Let’s compare sex to camping. Some days I don’t feel like camping. Perhaps I’d rather lounge with a book and a glass of wine.

But there’s my husband to consider. He’s already packed the truck and is eager to hit the road. What am I supposed to say, “Sorry fella, my hormonal chart isn’t in your court today”?

Instead, I pull on my hiking boots and bring the marshmallows. The campfire is quickly lit and . . . whatya know? Once we toast our marshmallows, we both end up having fun. Spectacular fun.

For me, a tailor-made approach works best, not a one-size-fits-all, whether we’re talking cycles or stars.

The only certainty is that retailers aren’t behind this cyclical wisdom when your horoscope or hormonology reads: “Don’t make any major purchases today.” And imagine those poor credit card companies, but that’s the way the (fortune) cookie crumbles.

Miss Fortune will have the last word: “Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or door frame and hold on.” Now that’s advice I can wrap my head around.

Audio story music
“Fancy”
by Saidbysed

‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes

Shannon Kernaghan Legal-weed_Kraven-Cache_400 ‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes Challenge Challenges Culture Health Lifestyle Memories Recreation Weed

It’s the late 1990s and I’m seated in a restaurant with two people. Before we’ve even ordered our meal, one says to me, “I hope you don’t mind if we smoke.” The other person smiles and reaches for her own cigarette pack.

By the time the appetizers arrive, my eyes are burning and my nose is plugged. I know that in less than an hour I’ll have a full-blown headache.

Now, if the two people were my friends, they’d be considerate enough to go outside, or I’d be brave enough to ask them not to smoke at the table. Since both are my employers, I say nothing. If only, I think, I live long enough to see smoking banned in restaurants.

To my surprise and delight, my wish is granted in the 2000s. Between the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Act, I don’t have to suffer the wrath of other people’s second hand smoke in a myriad public places. No more gasping over my glass of wine or arriving home in clothes that reek.

My wishing didn’t stop at cigarette smoke. Let’s be blunt: I’m not old enough to claim hippie status. Yet I am old enough to know that I’d be laughed out of a Pink Floyd-infused party with the prediction that pot will be legal in Canada by 2018.

No matter how clairvoyant (or high) the prognosticator, legalized marijuana was a dream until recently. It’s not that I smoke – see above allergies – it’s that I’m appalled at how people have been arrested for possession of a few joints.

If a criminal record isn’t enough, this black mark prevented people from crossing borders. They had no choice besides pony up money to apply for a legal pardon and be patient as the process takes years. If only, I think again, I live long enough to see pot decriminalized.

Again my wish is granted! But . . . is legal weed good or bad news for our communities?  I’ve read reams of logical argument and support. If I make one prediction, it’s that the jury will be out for a long while. Toggling the benefits of creating new opportunities in the marijuana market and the challenges of figuring out how to monitor drivers who toke (merely two of the issues), these early days will be interesting.

Until then, I’m happy to enjoy a smoke-free meal in public and to know that recreational pot smokers won’t be demonized and criminalized.

Thank you, Smoke Genie.

Audio music track
“Cumulus Nimbus”
by Quincas Moreira

Dad Wins ‘Best in Show’

Shannon Kernaghan Leon-boat-photo-e1548017023153 Dad Wins 'Best in Show' Childhood Family Memories parents Relationship

It’s that time again, the third Sunday in June when we tip our ball caps to the good fathers in our lives. I treat this day with plenty of respect, which is easy to do because I had a great dad.

Bottomless patience. That was one attribute that made him wonderful. While other dads shouted at their kids for denting cars or coming home late, my pop rarely lost his temper.

Take the time he bought a boat so we could cruise the river or enjoy a dozen rides on the lake during our weeks at a rental cottage.

Once, while my dad was tying our boat to the pier after one of those excursions, my brother dropped his glasses into the water. They quickly disappeared through the murk.

Some fathers would have yelled at their son’s carelessness. Not my dad. He donned a pair of goggles and dove once, twice, five times through gasoline rainbows until he found Randall’s horned rims on the lake bottom. That’s how Dad took care of business, without finger pointing or threatening words, and without expecting big thanks.

On another occasion it was my turn to test his endurance. I entered our teacup Chihuahua, Mini, in a local dog show. When Dad and I rolled into the parking lot, there were no cars, only a notice on the building’s door: DOG SHOW MOVED. The new address was a 45-minute drive.

On his day off – only one each week – Dad could have said, “Oh well, try again next time.” But he didn’t. We sped across town through pouring rain and hurried inside with Mini, who wasn’t overly excited about imminent fame, fortune or Best in Show.

Unfortunately, we were too late and I missed my turn in the ring. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in a crowd of milling people and their pooches. Again, my dad could have been annoyed for wasting his afternoon. All he said was, “Let’s get a hot dog from the canteen before we leave. They look like good ones.”

And that was it, all part of being a father and spending time with his children, supporting their dreams.

Remember to cherish your own dad, whether he’s near or far. To all the patient dads on Father’s Day, I raise my hot dog to you.

And for the record, Mini could have won that Best in Show trophy. At least that’s what I’ve told myself since age thirteen.

*Note* music backing track is Airport Lounge by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

This Valentine’s Day, Oh Poo!

Shannon Kernaghan valentines-oh-poo This Valentine’s Day, Oh Poo! Adventure Challenge Culture Dating Humor Lifestyle Memories Relationship Sex

If you trace the origins of Valentine’s Day, you won’t find a pretty picture. One legend claims that a Roman priest named Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 AD, for marrying couples against the advice of Emperor Claudius II. He figured single men were more enthusiastic about fighting his battles than family men. Somehow this grim tale resulted in heart-shaped cards, chocolates, red roses and candlelit dinners on February 14.

Humans are hopeless romantics, considering all the quaint love-infused traditions. Many I heard as a child. For example, if you twist the stem of an apple, you can predict the last name of your future love interest. Each rotation represents one letter of the alphabet. My search for sweethearts was restricted because the apple stems generally broke off at the letter D or E. I wonder how many eligible Xangs, Youngs and Zedenkas I overlooked in my quest for romance.

Another example features birds: if a robin flies over your head on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a sailor. Finding a sailor in my prairie city was no simple feat. If sailor was a misprint for tailor or wholesaler, my chances might have improved. The maddening catch with traditions is that they’re tough to apply universally.

Continuing with the legend, if a sparrow flies overhead, you’ll marry a poor man but you’ll be happy. Based on personal experience, poor men are always plentiful, no matter where you live. So are sparrows. Erect a birdhouse in your backyard and see what stakes a claim first, yellow canaries or sparrows.

But if a goldfinch flies overhead on Valentine’s Day, you’ll marry a millionaire. The legend doesn’t expand on whether you’ll be happy with your millionaire. Apparently hooking up with one is reward enough. Since I don’t know what a goldfinch looks like, that sweet bird of opportunity might have flown past without my knowledge.

Now, let’s say you’ve met Mr. or Ms. Right and you’re ready to start a family. How many children will you have? Go back to that dubious apple, the one missing its stem. Cut it in half and count the seeds. If nothing else, I know why we’re statistically producing 2½ children in each household. All of this apple-dividing is giving us fractional kids.

Despite the strange legends, Valentine’s Day holds a special place in my heart and funny bone. It was February and I was staying in a hotel for a work project in Prince Albert, Sask. Waiting next to me at the elevator was a cute young man. When the door opened, we walked in together and pressed our floor numbers. Simultaneously, we glanced down at fresh dog doo in the corner.

“Did you do that?” he asked.

“No, I’d remember that.” He eventually convinced me to go out with him. And the rest is history.

I wonder if there’s a romantic legend about discovering your sweetheart over dog poop.  If not, I should start one. It worked for me because a few years later I said, “I doo!”

Audio backing track
“This is a Jazz Space” by Midnight North
YouTube Music Library

Good Intentions, Bad Gifts

Shannon Kernaghan Good-Intentions-bad-gifts-400-2 Good Intentions, Bad Gifts Culture Gifts Lifestyle Memoir Memories Xmas

What’s the worst gift you ever received? Is it hard for everyone to open a bad Christmas gift and pretend to be excited? I’ll never win an Oscar for acting because the moment I unwrap a bad gift, my facial features alter. As I try to smile, a smirk tugs down the corners of my mouth. My pleasant “Oh, how lovely!” sounds hollow and now everyone in the room is watching!

What defines a bad gift? You tell me. When I was in my twenties, my mother-in-law gave me big beige underwear (‘old-lady panties’ according to my husband) three Christmases in a row. Each year it was the same thing; after Xmas I’d trade in the 6-pack for something sexy.

After years of nervous anticipation during tense moments around the tree, I’ve devised a few logical suggestions to sail us through the giving and receiving:

1) Avoid buying the ‘practical’ gift. An ear and nose hair trimmer is the ideal choice for Uncle Louie, but he didn’t know he had a hair issue until you came along;

2) If you’re bold/foolish/uncaring enough to pawn off a previous bad gift, remove all evidence. My friend received a present from her aunt, a glass punch bowl with 12 cups. When she broke down the box for recycling, she discovered a gift tag addressed TO the aunt from someone else. FYI my friend doesn’t have a dozen friends to share punch, so this gift was both recycled and kind of sad;

3) Before the dreaded day, I mean Christmas, do some practicing: “Thank you, how kind, it’s just what I always wanted” in front of the bathroom mirror. Do you look sincere? If you can’t fool yourself, you won’t fool your holiday crowd;

4) Reserve comment UNTIL you’ve unwrapped the inside tissue. Just because there’s a picture of a can opener on the box doesn’t mean there’s a can opener inside. It could be a diamond tennis bracelet and here you’ve already gone and gasped, “How wonderful, I really need a can opener!” Chances are, if you already own two can openers, it’ll be a third;

5) Apply a generous coating of lip balm before the festivities begin. When your mouth dries at the sight of a poorly knit sweater in a shade of orange not found on nature’s palette, the extra lubrication will prevent your lips from sticking to your teeth;

6) At the first sight of a bad gift, visualize a favorite day at the beach. If that doesn’t make you smile when you open the gift certificate for an hour of electrolysis, nothing will. (Now you know how Uncle Louie feels);

7) And finally, suggest that next Christmas be gift-free for adults. Why put ourselves through this stress year after year? Wait a minute . . .  who says I haven’t given MY share of bad gifts? My mother had a suspiciously cheerful voice when she opened my childhood creations of melted crayon-covered jars and Popsicle stick pen holders. So much glitter . . . the horror.

Forget the angst of receiving bad gifts. Now I’m too paranoid to shop. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Audio story backing track
“Clouds”
by Huma Huma.

You Throw Salt, I’ll Knock on Wood

Shannon Kernaghan skull-e1507756491922 You Throw Salt, I’ll Knock on Wood Culture Humor Memories Relationship Risk

Friday the 13th is one unlucky day for women. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry revealed that women have a higher than 60% risk of dying in traffic accidents on Friday the 13th compared with other Fridays. For men, bless their less superstitious stars, Friday the 13th is just another day, with a mere 2% risk of not making it past midnight.

If you have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, add this title to your playlist: paraskevidekatriaphobia. A milder condition is triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. If you suffer from both, throw a few grains of salt over your left shoulder. Next, crawl back into bed, on the right side if you’re SUPER superstitious.

I wonder if there’s a condition for fear of long and unpronounceable fears. If so, I’ve got dibs on that one.

Friday the 13th doesn’t make me anxious, although I understand the obsession. All of the focus spent worrying about events that could happen and attempts that might fail is distracting. Take my quirks: I can bash out work on the computer when left alone. But if anyone watches over my shoulder, I start to think about the keys and suddenly I make mistakes and forget how to type.

Same goes for playing piano. I spent years tickling the plastics in the privacy of my family home. Since I performed in only a handful of compulsory recitals, no one besides my piano teacher watched me play. And the old dear, in her early hundreds, regularly dozed off mid-song, so her attention didn’t count for much.

The problem resurfaced every June, that traumatic month when I took my Royal Conservatory of Music exam. Before this intimidating stranger, I had mere minutes to showcase a year’s worth of practicing and memorizing.

While waiting to hear my name called, my hands shook uncontrollably. When it was time to take my place at the bench, the keys looked foreign. I’d stare but middle C evaded me. When did I learn how to play piano? . . . Mommy!

I’d begin a song, race through a few bars to hurry the suffering, and then forget what notes came next. My song book would be retrieved and I’d lose points. Those countless hours spent memorizing music flew out the window faster than a Kardashian marriage.

To bolster my nerve, I should have brought along a lucky charm, like those athletes convinced they need their lucky underwear or let their beards grow. (Note to self: no more facial depilation before my next exam, which should be an eye exam so I can find those pesky whiskers.)

My present-day certainty? In an age of dwindling forests, it’s becoming harder to knock on wood for luck. Polymer laminates will never offer the same protective thrill.

Maybe Friday the 13th is unlucky for women because we spend too much time worrying about being unlucky. Calling all women: let’s ignore the calendar and stop being superstitious. But just in case I’m wrong, keep the salt shaker handy. And don’t break any mirrors.

What’s YOUR common or crazy superstition?

Audio story backing track
“No Good Right”
by Freedom Trail Studio

Can You Hear Me Now?

Shannon Kernaghan Honey-Dew-list-400 Can You Hear Me Now? Humor Lifestyle Memories Relationship

Listening is an under-rated art form. There’s a wise saying that people should listen twice as much as they talk, considering they have two ears for every mouth. When I read the report that men listen with only half their brain, my husband’s confidence improved.

“See? Paul said, pointing to an online article. “It’s not my fault, that’s the way I’m hardwired. Now when you call me a half-brain, it won’t be such an insult.”

The man has a point. I’ve been doing a non-clinical study for years and agree with the findings. Take the subject of errands. If I ask Paul to pick up a few groceries, he looks like a proud warrior when he returns with two of the four items I requested.

“Didn’t you buy coffee beans? I told you we were out and now won’t have any for breakfast tomorrow! What’s all this other stuff?” and I rummage through the bag.

“I never heard you say coffee. I got a Rolling Stone and BBQ chips.” Surprise: I don’t need B-B-Q chips, yet I do love my morning coffee.

I never confuse the topic of listening with that of memory. When it comes to memory, Paul has a great set of temporal lobes. He’ll recall something I mentioned at a party in 2006 where I commented on a woman’s pretty purple dress. From one remark, he’ll forever believe I adore purple dresses, and he’ll point out every one we walk past in store windows. Since the seed is firmly rooted, why bother arguing?

I’ve made another discovery through years of unscientific study: what men don’t hear, they invent. While on holidays, Paul led me into a restaurant that specializes in ramen soup. He ordered me a bowl and watched me eat while I commented on the soup’s poor quality and expensive price.

“Yeah, but at least we found a place that serves ramen,” he said. “I know how much you love it.”

“I do? Since when?”

“Since we used to eat it in Vancouver. Remember that noodle place on Robson Street? We’d always sit at the window.” He wasn’t giving up.

“Yeah, I liked the restaurant, but when did I say I loved the soup?” At some mystical juncture, Paul decided that I loved ramen. Case closed. At least he tries, even if he’s correct only half of the time.

Sometimes I wish that I could listen with only half a brain. Think how bearable it would be when the radio plays the same song six times on the hour. Or when the neighbor’s dog barks before I’m ready to get up in the morning. Or when I’m seated next to a screaming baby on a plane. There are countless advantages.

Why do I have to listen at all?  Maybe I’ll request a pack of ear plugs on Paul’s next grocery run. At this rate I’ll have a 50/50 chance of getting them.

Audio backing track
“Bleecker Street Blues”
by Chris Haugen

When Wooden Vultures Rule

Shannon Kernaghan Birthday-cake-400 When Wooden Vultures Rule Childhood Family Humor Memories Parties

Summer is a time to enjoy Farmer’s Markets, water sports and local festivals. It’s also a chance to celebrate an activity synonymous with fun – setting up your lawn ornaments.

While walking past a yard recently, I stopped and stared at wooden tulips, Little Bow Peep (her sheep hadn’t yet gone AWOL) and a menagerie of metal and stone critters:  a rooster, seagull, butterfly, cat, gopher and vulture. That’s right, a vulture. There was no mistaking that bald head and hunched neck. Who knew that carrion-eating birds are considered decorative? Perhaps it’s there to control the wooden gopher population.

The yard was cute and colorful, although I didn’t linger in case I was confused with a burglar casing the joint. I was in no mood to run from the plaster-cast hounds, had they been released.

Why my interest? I’m not from a family who owned garden gnomes enacting scenes of bucolic tranquility. Perhaps my mom saw steel rod construction as too much of a physical threat to her children. Even without obstacles, I managed to snap my collarbone, sprain an ankle and land on a board after climbing our fence. Luckily my nose broke that fall.

For summer threats, we already had plenty with an aboveground pool and rows of deadly raspberry bushes. Not deadly in the eating, but deadly in the thorns when you crashed your bike into them.

And there were the croquet hoops, the few always missed when packing up the game. One step through those nearly invisible wires and you found yourself close up and personal with the ground.

These are only a dusting of the hazards within the property line; I haven’t touched on our TV antenna anchored next to the house. Mom, did you know there’s a clear view of the entire city from the top of that tower?

I’m sure my mom figured there were easier ways for her kids to face injury. No need to sabotage them with majestic plaster deer and concrete toadstools when she could pull out the “big guns” once a year.

Her secret weapon? The birthday cake baked with coins and buttons. Back then, only the most devoted mothers bothered with this festive touch. Today, expect a visit from  Social Services if you empty the hardware drawer into your child’s cake mix. Oh . . . so THAT’S why I chew my food slowly.

As for celebrating your garden gnomes this coming winter, I’m sure there’s no law against it. But why bother? No one will see them under the snowdrifts. Wait a second . . . there’s always plastic Santa and his reindeer to pull down from the garage rafters.

Turns out lawn ornaments are fun year-round. Bring it on, Jack Frost . . . but don’t rush. I’m not ready to say good-bye to the wooden vulture.

Audio backing track
“Holy Tension Batman”
by Spazz Cardigan

Real Dogs

Shannon Kernaghan Humphrey-400 Real Dogs Humor Memories Pets and Animals

I like to attend an occasional Kennel Club show, not because I prefer purebreds but because I marvel at how people fuss over their canines. At a previous show, Paul and I spoke with a woman who feverishly backcombed the fur of a standard poodle.

“How long does it take to get him ready?” Paul asked.

“Including the bath? Three hours.” The black poodle, shaved to pom-pom perfection, ignored us and rested his head on a padded chin holder. With three hours of grooming, I’d also need a chin holder. And I’d never look as good.

Next to the dog’s grooming table was a cannon-sized hair dryer. It required its own stand with rolling wheels. While we continued to bombard the owner with inane comments, she applied “Grand Finale” hair spray to the dog’s head.

I pulled Paul’s arm to leave. When both owner and dog ignore you, it’s time to move on.

We headed to the display of styling products. If dogs had pockets to keep credit cards, they’d do some serious retail therapy. I scanned the shelves: Udderly Smooth, Ear-So-Fresh, Crisp Coat, Silk Texturizing Super Coat and Get-It-Straight. I purchased a bottle of Get-It-Straight for me, as well as several stainless steel spray containers. I hate when animals have better bathroom accessories.

After the tour of beauty products, we wandered past booths of doggy accessories, marveling at racks of vests, bandannas, pet wraps and a selection of what looked like colorful underwear called Bitch Britch, in three convenient sizes.

On our way out of the hall, I spotted a woman lathering her dog’s snout with shaving cream before dragging a razor carefully over its cheeks.

“Come on,” and I pulled my husband’s arm again. “This I’ve got to see.” On closer inspection, I realized the small dog had no fur. She looked like smooth chocolate, at least what I could detect under her baggy sweater (the dog’s sweater, not the owner’s). Now it was my turn to ask the questions.

“Do you shave her entire body?”

“No, just her whiskers,” said the woman. “The breed is a Xoloitzcuintle.”

“Pardon?”

“Mexican Hairless.” She pointed towards a pen with four equally hairless creatures, all wearing stylish sweaters. Instead of a hair dryer, her dogs require a wardrobe.

“Where do you find such great clothing?”

She turned to us with an audible sigh. “Honey, if you’ve got the money, you can find anything you want for your dog.” Paul wanted to keep asking questions: do they need sunscreen in the summer and how much does she pay for home heating because those were some naked puppies. We didn’t get the chance. It was show time for her and the rest of the non-sporting group.

I should have been impressed by these potential best in breeds. I wasn’t. The one thing missing in this assortment of purebred perfection was a real dog.

I grew up with a real dog, a Pointer/Dalmatian/Your Guess combo who howled outside our front door one winter night. My sister let him in, no one claimed him and he never left. Humphrey didn’t have a name with titles or descend from special lineage, yet he became a valued member of our home for a decade.

Besides his daily food, seasonal baths and annual vet visits, Humphrey’s needs were basic. If he rolled in something unpleasant, we bumped up his bath schedule. If pests bothered him, we treated him with Flea Bath for Dogs. He sure didn’t need a hair dryer. A few laps around the back yard did the trick, providing he didn’t find anything dead along his path to roll in again.

His skills? He had a flare for performance. He’d say “I want my mamma” when treats were dangled. Another skill: craftiness. At the sound of the garage door opening, which meant a parent had arrived home, he’d hightail it off their comfy bed and hurry to his own dog cushion. The telltale warm and hair-coated circular impression in the bedspread always betrayed him.

Finally, he had street smarts. He recognized the dog catcher’s boxy vehicle and knew to make a hasty retreat for home. Once I saw him gallop around our corner followed by the evil truck 50 feet behind. (We grew up in suburbia, before neighbors objected to free-roaming pooches.)

Who won the biggest trophy at that last dog show? Not sure. We never stayed to watch the final judging because all the dogs looked like winners.

But there’d be no contest if any were pitted against Humphrey. He was a real dog.

Find Shannon’s books onAmazonShannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Real Dogs Humor Memories Pets and Animals

Audio story music
“Talkies”
by Huma Huma