Peach Forever

By Lisa Scottoline

There’s something worse than losing a dog.

Losing two dogs.

Which just happened in my family.

But this column isn’t about death, it’s about life.

By way of background, Daughter Francesca lost her wonderful Pip during the holidays. He succumbed to cancer at the age of fifteen, and we were able to be with him at the end, which was blessedly peaceful. And then, unexpectedly, my dog Peach fell ill last week when her kidneys failed, and we were able to be with her at the end of her fourteen years, which was also peaceful.

It was the worst instant replay ever.

But losing both Pip and Peach got me thinking that the sadness over their passing is part-and-parcel of the unique happiness they gave us, as the older generation in our dog family of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Pip, Peach, and the late Little Tony were the older generation, and Pip and Peach were even half-brother and half-sister, having the same father. I still have Peach’s two sons, Boone and Kit.

At two human beings and five dogs, we were outnumbered.

Leg-wise, that’s four to twenty.

Though my legs are hairier.

People say dogs are a member of their family, but in our case, the reverse was true – we were members of their family.

And it was a hoot to watch them relate like a human family.

Peach was the smallest, but she barked nonstop, keeping everyone in line. If she smoked, she could have passed for Mother Mary.

Every night starting at 7:00, she would stand at the window overlooking the backyard and bark until 11:00 at night. The window was in the family room, so it was impossible to watch TV.

Bottom line, there was too much family in the family room.

Most nights I would let her out in the front yard so she could bark at the backyard, and the only thing missing was a side yard so she could bark at the front and the backyards at the same time.

Like stereo agita.

All of this barking kept squirrels, birds, deer, and passing clouds in order.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the world is safe from atomic warfare because of Peach.

And don’t think my neighbors hate me, because they’re too far away to hear.

Even as she got older, she never stopped barking. She had heart issues severe enough for the vet to tell me not to walk her anymore, but she barked forever.

Meanwhile her barking never bothered me.

I have nothing against a woman speaking up.

And she bore two terrific puppies, then got to live with them all her life, a terrific mother from day one. All of her feistiness was reserved for anything or anyone who tried to mess with her puppies. We whelped them in my bedroom, and just once Uncle Little Tony stuck his head in to see what was going on.

Peach got busy.

Mother grizzlies have nothing on mother cavaliers.

And she barely slowed down as she got older, except that she got mitral valve disease, which caused her heart to enlarge.

She was a little dog with a big heart, literally.

She slept on the pillow next to me, and because her heart was too big, I could actually hear it beat at night, in the stillness of my bedroom.

And I could feel its vibration on my pillow.

It was a comforting sound that lulled me to sleep, like nature’s lullaby.

To love a dog, or any animal, is to fully realize what it is to be a human being.

And how connected we are to animals, and honestly to everything in the world.

I have a dog family, but I believe there is a much larger family we all belong to.

That family includes people of kinds, and dogs, and trees, and various bugs and even the sky and the stars.

It was my little dog with the big heart that brought me to that realization, every night from my pillow to the sky entire.

I will miss my little Peach.

But I will always have her with me.

And so will you.

Love each other.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2024

Column Classic: Unresolutions

By Lisa Scottoline

This is the time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions, but I have a better idea. By definition, a resolution is something you want to change about yourself, something you’ve done wrong in the past that you want to start doing right.

Boo!

I think we would all be better served if this New Year, we made unresolutions. That is, let’s make a list of things we’ve been doing, and we’d like to keep doing. Who needs negativism around the holidays? Times are tough, and why should we make them tougher?  Especially on our favorite people in the world, namely ourselves.

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

I’ll go first.

UnResolution Number One.  I sleep in my clothes, and I resolve to keep sleeping in my clothes. I know this sounds weird, and it helps that my clothes are fleece pants and a fleece top, because I work at home. Sometimes I even wear a fleece hat to bed, like a nightcap, because I like my room cold but not my head. Bottom line, I never have to worry about what to wear, and I’m already dressed, all the time. So now you know.

UnResolution Number Two. I kiss my pets on the lips, and I like it. I know people say it’s unsanitary, but they’re no fun. All of my animals expect me to kiss them on the lips, even my pony. And if they balk, I grab them by their furry cheeks and force them to stand still. I’m paying the room and board, and all I want is a little smooch. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

UnResolution Number Three. I don’t own an iron. It’s not the worst thing in the world if my clothes are a little wrinkly. No one really notices, or if they do, they’re too polite to say so, which is the same thing. To me.

UnResolution Number Four. I talk to strangers. I got this from my mother, who, when we went into the Acme, talked to the produce guy, the stock boy, and the cashier. She was always up in their business, and in time, they were up in hers. It turned every errand into a little party, a reunion of old friends, but there just happens to be a cash register in the room.

UnResolution Number Five. I make too much food. If I serve dinner and no one at the table says, “You made too much food,” then I feel like I failed. I love the idea that there’s a lot of food on the table. I want everybody full and happy, and I always give the leftovers to the dogs and cats.

You know what comes next.

(I kiss them on the lips.)

UnResolution Number Six. I wear flats. I used to always wear high heels, because I’m a shorty. I thought I felt more powerful in heels, but all I really felt was more painful. It was daughter Francesca who got me started wearing flats, and it changed my life. My toes are always happy, and

I’m still a mighty mite.

UnResolution Number Seven. I buy too many books. I love to read and have hundreds of books overflowing my bookshelves and stacked high on my dining room table, in piles. I love living around books, and reading is like traveling without baggage claim. Who needs a dining room anyway?

So maybe now you understand why I’m single.

Which brings me to UnResolution Number Eight.

I live alone, but I’m not lonely. I know lots of you live alone, whether by choice or by circumstance, and you may be lonely, especially around the holidays. I’m not saying you’re not allowed to be, all I’m saying is that the fact that you live alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely. It means you’re free to wear hats to bed.    

In the end, our own personal happiness is about figuring out what makes us feel the most ourselves and living that way – and to hell with what anybody else thinks.

So, when you’re making a list of resolutions, please do make some unresolutions, too.

It will be a Happier New Year.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2008

Column Classic: Princess Lisa

By Lisa Scottoline

I live a fairytale existence. 

But not in a good way. 

When I was little, I remember reading old-school fairytales, and there was one in which every time a princess spoke, no words came out of her mouth, but only snakes, newts, spiders, and mice. 

Well, it turns out that princess is me. 

And they’re not coming out of my mouth, but they’re coming out of my heat vents. 

Or from under couches. 

Or even from my oven. 

I don’t know where to begin the fairytale. 

Maybe just to remind you that every year in the autumn, I always have an invasion of wolf spiders. 

To be fair, they don’t invade.  They have better manners than that. 

They merely wait for the front door to open and run in, usually in a flying wedge. 

There are NFL teams that don’t have the formations of these spiders. 

Mine are professional spiders. 

I can’t bring myself to kill them, so I try to catch them under drinking glasses, flip the glasses upside down, and throw them back outside. 

I’ve made my peace with the spiders, as I have with the mice that tend to appear this time of year, too. 

I found one in the oven last week, and he wasn’t helping with the cooking. 

So, I set a bunch of mousetraps, because I don’t cut mice the same slack that I cut spiders. 

You have to draw the line somewhere. 

Anybody who has had a mouse in the house knows that the best and worst sound is a snap of the trap. 

Then a few days ago I noticed a horrible smell coming from the wall of my bedroom closet and all the dogs were going crazy every night, at bedtime.  When I couldn’t take the stench anymore, I called a contractor.  The dogs told him exactly where in the wall to dig. 

They’re cadaver dogs. 

Kind of. 

Anyway, in five minutes, the contractor had opened the wall and found three dead mice. 

Presumably they were not blind. 

Still, I can live even with dead mic e. 

I’m not a picky woman, and everybody’s just looking to keep warm for the winter, myself included. 

But just now, I was at my desk working on the computer when I happened to look down and see something dark, long, and skinny wiggling rapidly across the rug. 

All the dogs were asleep. 

Thanks, freeloaders. 

But to stay on point, at first, I thought it was a worm, but it was moving way too fast, and my body shuddered instantly, because it figured out what the thing was before my brain did. 

A baby snake. 

I jumped up and said, eeeeek! 

Because I’m entitled. 

I ran to get a glass, returned to my office, and put the glass down in front of the baby snake, who undulated cooperatively inside. 

Yes! 

I mean yessssssss! 

Then I ran outside with the glass and left the snake in the backyard. 

So, he could be a snake in the grass. 

It seemed only natural that there should be a living cliché in the backyard of a writer. 

I thought it was over until this morning, when I saw another baby  

snake crawling out of my heating vent in the floor. 

Eeeeeekkkkk! 

And now enough is enough. 

I can put up with spiders and mice, but I can’t put up with snakes. 

I thought instantly of the princess in the fairytale, but I want my happy ending. 

Which means that I won’t wait for a prince to save me. 

Because I might be waiting a long time. 

I can’t even get a dog to wake up. 

I’m going to find an exterminator. 

And I’ll live happily ever after. 

© Lisa Scottoline 

Plucky

By Lisa Scottoline

My dog is on Viagra.

And she’s a girl.

I don’t know where to begin.

But she does.

She knows everything.

This is the effect of Viagra on dogs.

They become queens.

Or kings.

Maybe I should take one?

First, let me say I’m not a vet and this is not veterinary advice, so don’t go asking your vet for Viagra.

For your dog.

(Yeah, right.)

What happened is that my little Peach, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was diagnosed with congestive heart disease. Sadly, the diagnosis wasn’t unexpected because she’s twelve years old and heart disease is not uncommon in the breed. In fact, she’s my second cavalier, so I even have a veterinary cardiologist.

By the way, my pony has an equine dentist, and my chickens have an avian vet.I have a wallet.

Honestly, I’m not complaining about vet bills. My pets are members of my family, and I don’t mind taking care of my family, even when it costs me.

It’s still less than tuition.

Plus anybody who has a pet knows they’re expensive, and smart owners get pet insurance.

Not me.

Meanwhile my cat costs me nothing.

My cat Vivi is fifteen years old and has never been sick a day in her life.

Cats rock.

Someday I’ll get pet insurance, but every time I look into it online, the veterinary healthcare system is as confusing as the human-being healthcare system.

Maybe cats should take it over.

They’d know what to do.

To return to point, Peach was already on two medications for her heart, but she seemed listless, and when I took her to the vet, he suggested that we put her on Sildenafil citrate, a small white pill.

And then I looked up her medication online and found that it contained the same thing as Viagra.

Who knew?

And honestly, who cares?

If it makes her happier and healthier, I’m all for it.

So Peach started taking a quarter of a tab.

And she perked up.

Like, a lot.

She’s always been plucky, but she was pluckier than ever. My other two dogs Boone and Kit are her sons, and she started chasing them around the house.

I’m not sure what she had in mind.

She’s not that kind of dog.

Let’s just say it was good, clean family fun and (probably) not sexual harassment.

Anyway I touched base with the vet, and he was happy to hear that Peach had more energy. He did some tests that showed her heart was doing better, too, so we increased her dosage to half a tab.

Then she got even pluckier.

Her sons thought she was too plucky.

I didn’t. Peach was like a puppy again, running around the backyard and chasing squirrels.

So the squirrels agreed with her sons.

She had energy!

I bet if we increase her dosage, she’d paint the house.

I might be fine with that.

Now I get why men take Viagra.

Life is short.

But not everything else has to be.

Have fun!

In fact, I find myself taking a second look at Peach’s pills.

You gotta wonder what effect they’d have on me.

I looked online to learn how Viagra affected women, and the articles seemed to suggest that it increased female sexual arousal.

That, I don’t need.

Why dress up if you’re not going anywhere?

Meanwhile I couldn’t be pluckier than I am.

I’m so plucky I’m divorced twice.

Turns out some men can’t handle pluck.

Pluck them!

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2023

Column Classic: With Apologies to L’Oreal

by Lisa Scottoline

I’m sweltering because I have low self-esteem.

That’s what I figured out.

Otherwise I can’t explain my own dumb behavior.

This might be a new low, because usually I can explain my dumb behavior. Like if someone says, do you want to get married, I always say, Yes!

Dumb, but I know why.

Temporary insanity.

This time, I don’t, and the stakes are much higher. We’re talking air conditioning.

We begin when summer started, in earnest. The heat wave rolled in with temperatures of ninety degrees, but for some reason, I don’t turn on the air conditioning. One part of my house has central air, and it happens to be where the family room and my office are, but still I can’t bring myself to turn it on. By habit, I try not to turn on the air conditioning unless I absolutely have to.

Dumb.

I tough it out. It’s warm but not unbearable. I drink lots of iced drinks and wear tank tops and shorts. I tell myself I feel cool, even though the dogs pant and flop listlessly on the floor, flat as area rugs.

The cats don’t mince words. They walk around with signs that read: TURN ON THE AC, DUMMY.

I know if I had a window air conditioner, I’d feel differently. Then I would turn it on and it would cool down the one room I was in and nothing else. But central air has to cool the family room, kitchen, and office – all for one person.

Me.

When Daughter Francesca lived home, I would turn it on all the time. It makes sense, for two people.

But for one?

Me?

I sweat as I type away, and I’m on deadline, running out of steam. Still I think if I could just hang in a little longer, I could get through another day. Partly it’s the money, because the bill is so high, but it was high for two people too, so that can’t be the real reason. It’s not the money, but it seems wasteful.

For me alone.

Do you remember the commercial for L’Oreal haircolor, where the tagline said, Because you’re worth it?

I’ll explain, for those under seventy years old.

The idea was that L’Oreal was the most expensive of the at-home hair color kits, costing, if I remember correctly, twelve bucks a box.

Yes, there was a time when things cost twelve dollars.

And yes, there was a time when I did my own haircolor, and it looked it. I was a Nice N’ Easy fan, which went for six bucks and was neither nice nor easy.

They also called it hair painting, and we all know what a lousy painter I am. I’m the girl who paints around the pictures on the wall, so you can imagine what my roots looked like.

Picasso.

By the way, L’Oreal doesn’t use that tagline anymore, though its website asks, What Does Your Haircolor Say About You?

Which, I realized, is a more tactful way of saying, WHY DON’T YOU TURN ON THE AC, DUMMY?

I didn’t spring for the L’Oreal, and frankly, I don’t turn on the air conditioning because, at some, level, I don’t feel worth it.

Really?

Me?

Advocate of strong, independent women everywhere? Writer of books featuring same? Could I really have self-esteem that low?

Ouch.

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t want to know, but I turned on the air conditioning immediately, just to prove it to myself that I wasn’t a loser.

The dogs thanked me.

The cats didn’t.

They knew they were worth it, all along.

Copyright © Lisa Scottoline