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To The Beach

Cricket loves bird poop. To be fair, she loves poop of all kinds. When she goes to the beach, she noses every pole and bench and wooden slat, and she can inspect one blade of grass for hours if an animal has left traces behind. She is a one dog C.S.I. team.

"I think smell bird poop!"

“I think smell bird poop!”

The most likely offender

The most likely offender

Both of my dogs love the beach, and my Mom loves the beach, but I don’t. I feel itchy and grumpy and inexplicably hopeless there. I force myself to go, like I force myself to take vitamins, because it’s supposed to be good for me.



We got into the habit of walking along the boardwalk at the beach for twenty minutes or so a day when we lived at the old apartment. I was already struggling to walk right, and Mom hoped that the fresh air, and the soft wood planks under my feet, and of course, the handrails, would help.

Mom believes that the smell of the seaweed, and the swirling patterns of the seagulls, and the sound of the waves have a healing power. She takes her camera along and charts the changing character of the water.

A treasure trove of smells

A treasure trove of smells

summer 2008 to winter 2009 077

IMG_2279summer 2008 to winter 2009 079

When we moved to the new apartment we stopped our daily trips to the beach. The extra ten or fifteen minute drive was a good excuse, but not the real reason. Despite endless attempts, I still hated the briny taste of the air, and the indifference of the seagulls, and the squawking predatory sound they made when they circled a pile of stale bread in the parking lot. I was still afraid of the creepy crawlies that lived under the dark green water, and the slippery sea plants wrapping themselves around my ankles.

"Get off my beach!"

“Get off my beach!”

"Let go of my leash and I can reach it!"

“Just let go of my leash and I’ll go by myself.”

I forced myself to go back to the beach again in mid October. I felt silly for avoiding it, and I wanted the dogs to have a chance to socialize with other dogs, on leashes, and to sniff new things that don’t live in my backyard. Once again, the girls loved it, and Mom loved it, and I didn’t.

I sound like a curmudgeon. Beaches are supposed to be inspiring and life giving and romantic, and instead, they make me feel like life is not worth living. Even watching Butterfly sniff every spot Cricket had just sniffed couldn’t quite cheer me up. And I don’t know why. There are too many mysteries like this that I can’t resolve.

I’ll go back again, eventually, if only to make my family happy. In the meantime, I walk by the local pond instead. I nod to the ducks, and look up as packs of geese fly by, and shake my fist at the signs that say my dogs are not welcome in this lovely place, where Cricket could sniff bird poop to her heart’s content.

Bird Island, where no dogs may roam

Bird Island, where no dogs may roam

"So there!"

“So there!”

(All pictures in this post taken by Naomi Mankowitz – aka Grandma)

The Pee and Poop Songs

Baby Cricket

Baby Cricket



I think it all started as lullabies when Cricket first came home in the car. She was two pounds of fluff on my lap in the back seat and I sang to her to help her calm down during the long drive from New Jersey to Long Island. I don’t remember what I sang, probably whatever was stuck in my head from the radio, or some Hebrew songs from school, and a lullaby or two. I was reduced to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Row Row Row Your Boat by the end.

But it worked. It helped Cricket relax onto my lap. And I tried it again whenever she seemed to get overwhelmed, in the crate, by noises in the house, or when she woke up at three AM to pee, or when she was trying to master the stairs.

So it was natural for me to sing to her when she was learning to pee outside. I would clap for her when she peed and I’d repeat the word “pee” so she’d pair the word with the action. And then I’d repeat myself, and add a melody to the whole thing. I never knew why certain songs jumped into my head and became pee and poop songs, though.

When I went to sleep-away camp as a kid they used to take popular songs and jingles and change the words. So I automatically started rewriting songs I knew, to fit Cricket’s needs.

There was a resurgence of pee and poop songs when Butterfly came home in November and needed encouragement to learn to pee outside instead of in the kitchen.

"What do I do now?"

“What do I do now?”

One of my favorites is the “I’m a Little Teapot” song, which transformed itself into: “I’m a little puppy, short and stout. Tip me over and poop comes out.”

“We’ve got the beat,” became, “We’ve got the poop.”

“Baby it’s cold outside,” is a perennial favorite of mine, because it is a duet and I can imagine Cricket singing her part the way she cries and cuddles against me.

“I really must pee.” That’s her line.

“But baby it’s cold outside.” That’s mine.

“I’ve got to go pee!” More insistent this time.

“But baby it’s cold outside.” Me, still deluding myself that I have a choice.

We have this conversation daily and it’s nice to be able to put it to music, given that Cricket will inevitably win the argument and I will have to go outside and freeze my face off. I don’t even remember the original words anymore because the pee lyrics have become so prominent in my mind. I just see Cricket’s puppy dog eyes filled to the brim with unshed pee and the song pops into my head.

"Pee" sometimes just means "outside"

“Pee” sometimes just means “outside”

I’ve started dancing to the pee songs lately, to encourage Butterfly, especially after ten o’clock at night when the wind is howling and I need her to hurry up  so I can go back inside and not worry that she’s going to wake me up at four AM with desperate whimpers. I started out by walking in circles on the lawn, to mimic her pre-pee activities, but she’d get distracted by a noise down the block or by Cricket chewing her stick and she’d forget to pee or stop pooping in the middle. And then I started dancing, partly because it was so freakin’ cold out, but then I noticed that dancing got Butterfly’s attention better than just singing by itself.

The girls inspire each other

The girls inspire each other

The fact is, the songs work. At the very least, they make me feel like I can help my dogs live happier, healthier lives. And it’s fun for me. What more could I ask for?