Dust of 100 Dogs & Heat of 1000 Blushes

I wanted to be a vet for a whole week when I was little. This career path followed right after my I’m-going-to-be-an-astronaut phase, which was curtailed after I tried to dress my infant brother in my Astronaut Cabbage Patch’s outfit: helmet and all.

The vet phase was also short lived. Lasting exactly as long as it took for me to discover that vets don’t just play with puppies all day: they also have to treat sick dogs, put dogs to sleep, and deal with blood. Also, my mother pointed out to me, vets don’t just treat dogs. They treat all sorts of animals. Including snakes.

I decided I wanted to be a Sea World trainer instead. It’s a good thing I changed my mind about this too, because that career path would ultimately not have worked out for me; as evidenced by the fact I hyperventilated at 19 while at Stingray City in the Caymen Islands.

I’ve outgrown my eight-year-old career indecision, but I haven’t outgrown my phobias about blood or snakes. I also haven’t outgrown my sensitivity to all-sad-dog-things. Twenty years later, Stonefox still makes me teary. Winning the race was NOT worth it!

So I was a big wimp – a bigger drama queen – and made a fuss about reading Dust of 100 Dogs. I bought it, I looked at it, I built all sorts of scary theories in my head….
And then I finally read it.

That’s when I realized: I’M AN IDIOT. The book is not about a pirate who kills 100 dogs. (Yes, that is one of the plotlines I invented).

A.S.King’s book is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a beautiful mix of historical, with current, with fantastic. I loved the structure of the book – the past, the present, the dog training facts – each facet worked together to tell a story that transcended the parts. (And I’ll freely admit that for each Dog Fact, I did a mental inventory of the puggles. They pass.)

Sidenote: the characters’ names are awesome too! Saffron and Emer have made their way onto the list of potential names for the distant-future-residents of the NTB.

Sure there were intense scenes – but I handled them. Part of me thinks I should get a merit badge for bravery, but a bigger part feels ridiculous for being such a wuss. Imagine what I’d have missed out on if I had talked myself out of reading this. It’s like brussels sprouts – how long did I resist those? Now I love them!

I was so inspired by my outstanding bravery and King’s equally outstanding prose, that today at the bookstore I picked up another book with a scary cover: Bliss by Lauren Myracle.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll start talking myself into reading it.

A Raven’ Scaredy Cat

Today was dark and gloomy. And a half day for the kiddos. I decided that since Mother Nature was cooperating and it is Poetry Month, we’d study Poe’s The Raven.

I shut the blinds and killed the lights. Turned up the volume of the recording I have of Basil Rathbone reading the poem in a delightfully British accent. Would it be too scary? I watched the kiddos closely for cues.

Not scared, the kids were spellbound. They listened. We discussed. They asked to listen again. Who am I to deny them poetry pleasure? I hit play and ducked out of the room to visit the teacher across the hall and borrow her freakishly realistic fake raven: complete with feathers and beady eyes. I stepped back into the room and most of the kiddos didn’t even look up from their copies of the poem.

I walked over to one kiddo who was concentrating particularly hard: forehead leaned against the edge of his desk as he studied the poem in his lap. Holding a finger to my lips for the sake of his smiling desk neighbors, I placed the bird on his desk. When he shifted to turn the page, his shocked double-take was quite comical.

I repeated this to great effect with three other students. The kiddos weren’t really scared, just startled and amused. When the poem ended, they begged to write their own scary poems. Being the selfless teacher that I am, I agreed to let them learn, practice their writing skills, and share the results.

Then it was noon and time for them to leave.

I had the classroom to myself and four hours to put a dent in a Everest-sized pile of grading. I looked at the pile and sighed:

Once upon a [afternoon] dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious [page] of forgotten [answers],

Remember that dark and gloomy day? Ten minutes after the last bus it turned a lot darker and a LOT gloomier. And then came the lightning. The building-shaking thunder. The rain so loud I couldn’t hear the showtunes I’d turned on.

All that fear I’d worried about inspiring in my students – it must have been on delay, because I found myself terrified; irrationally, embarrassingly quaking in the middle of my classroom. I turned on all the lights, and turned the showtunes up louder, singing along in a quavery voice and fighting the urge to duck under my desk and cower.

And then IT happened.

Suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my [classroom] door

I may have squealed a little bit and shot a horrified glance at the model bird before realizing that it was only the teacher across the hall asking if I wanted to go to lunch.

I made her take back the bird before I agreed.

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