Does She Lick?

By Irene Zion


I just got an e-mail

that a little old lady needs a therapy dog,

so I call the phone number

and speak to the daughter

who herself sounds elderly.

Her voice is all trembly

and quavering.


She is taking care of her 94-year-old mother.

She says she’s tired all the time.

She’s sorry she sounds tired;

she was taking a nap when I called


she was up half the night


her mother had diarrhea

and she had to stay awake

to keep her mother cleaned up.


Her mother is very clean.

Her mother is her life, she says.


She says, the last person who called

had a Rottweiler

but that was way too big a dog.


I said, I have a big dog too,

but although she’s about 90 pounds

she’s a Golden and

gentle as spring rain.


Oh, she says, oh, that’s big.


She has a big heart, I say.


Does she lick? she says,

my mother doesn’t like to be licked.


I say, she kisses,

yes she does,

she licks.


Oh she won’t like that, she says.


I ask, did your mother

have dogs when she was younger?


She says, not that she knows of

but she did find a picture of her

once, a long time ago with

a tiny little dog.

Maybe seeing a dog

would be good for her,

she didn’t know, it might not

even have been her dog.


I say, my dog isn’t tiny

and she does lick

but she makes people happy,

but some people don’t like dogs.

You should know that not everyone

wants a dog near them.


My mother is my life, she says,

She has some help during the day, she says,

but really it’s up to her.


I say, look here, I have to go away for a week.

Why don’t you take my e-mail?


I don’t have a computer, she says.


I say, okay then, take down my name

and phone number

and think on it while I’m away.

Call me when I get back

We could just give it a try, I say.

I took care of my mother too, I say.


You did?

You took care of your mother? she says.


Yes I did, I say.


She is speaking louder now and faster.

I think that this is the lady who needs

the visits from a therapy dog.


The last place she called said a therapy dog was

$150 per hour for two hours, she says

and she tells the guy

that her mother can’t take two hours of anything

but he says that even if it’s 20 minutes

it’s still $150 for two hours.


I say, our organization is all volunteer.

No one has to pay for a therapy dog visit.

I would love to come visit with my dog, I say.


She says she’ll think on it.

Big dogs are a problem

and then there’s the licking,

her mother won’t like that,

she’s a clean woman, she says.


I said that’s okay.

You just think about it

and give me a call.


She says, you really took care of your mother?


Yes, I did, I say.


My mother is my life, she says.


Still, I say, still

you could take a little break,

have a cup of tea,

read a magazine,

if your mother decided she liked

to spend some time with my dog and me.


My mother is very hard of hearing;

you should know that, she says.


At 94, few of us will have good hearing, I say.


I just don’t know, she says.

I’m so tired, I can’t hardly think.

Did you find you got really tired? she says.


Yes, oh yes I did get tired, I say.


I hope this would be good for my mother

but I just don’t know, she says,

the dog is so big.


Big dog, big heart, I say.


She licks, though, she says,

I wish she didn’t lick.


Is there parking around her place? I ask,

Oh yes, she says, that’s not a problem.

She has a house.

She’s lived here fifty years;

been in the same house fifty years.


How wonderful that

she can stay in her own house,

because of your care, I say.


I just wish your dog were small,

she says, and didn’t lick.


Dogs lick, even tiny dogs lick, I say,

it’s one way they get to know a person.


My mother’s a very clean woman,

she says.


I’m sure that’s true, I say,

cleanliness is good.


So, you took care of your mother,

she says.


Yes, I say, it can make you tired.

You think about it while I’m gone,

I say, I understand if you prefer to wait

for a tiny dog

like the one in the picture.

I’ve never myself known a dog

who didn’t lick, I say.


I’ll call you when you get back,

She says.

TAGS: , , , , , , , ,

IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

134 responses to “Does She Lick?”

  1. admin says:


    • Irene Zion says:

      Wow, thanks, admin.

      • Ursula says:

        What desperation, indecision, bordering on madness trying to decide what would please her mother. Love repeated too many times is love/hate, feeling trapped. Your patience and kindness comes across wonderfully in your narrative. Did she every call back?

        • Irene Zion says:


          She was desperate!
          Also indecisive and really to the brink of madness.
          You’ve pinned her perfectly.
          She never called back,
          I don’t think her mother wants to see my dog ever,
          but I think the daughter needs help.
          I’m going to call her after a while.
          I’m not sure what good it will do,
          but I can try.

  2. Jude says:

    Wonderful Irene! Loved your style of writing and use of repetition. I could so feel this woman’s tiredness – and your patience and love shines through…

    When my dad was in the hospice, we used to take his dog in to visit him. From what I’ve heard, dog visits are now accepted and encouraged, but back then it was a rare occurrence. Brightened everyone’s day…patients loved the dog, even the licking!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Jude, that’s the thing.
      People who love dogs and had them when younger want to be around them.
      Brooklyn goes to a nursing home and the people who had dogs go nuts over her.
      They WANT to be kissed!
      This lady didn’t want to be licked.
      I don’t think she ever had a dog.
      I’m not sure it would have helped her at all, although I think the elderly daughter really did need some attention.
      What will she ever do when her mother finally does die?
      Remember, her mother is her life!

  3. Zara Potts says:

    Fantastic piece, Irene.
    The cadence is wonderful, the words perfect.
    Inspirational you.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thanks, Zara,
      I wish I had a non-licking, small dog for her.
      (But I don’t think it would have helped.)

  4. Oh Irene, you are such a good person to do this and love the poetic way you wrote this. It has wonderful rhythm and repetition and really is a poem.
    Has she called back?

    How long did you take care of your mother? Where all the kids in the house, too?

    • Irene Zion says:

      Geez, Jessica Anya, I’m gobsmacked here.
      She never did call back.
      It broke my heart. I know I could have made the elderly daughter happier.

      My mom is a long story, Jessica Anya.
      Ten years with us.
      I still can’t write about the protracted end.
      One day.

  5. Matt says:

    Very well done, Irene.

    Dogs like you when they love you. And that’s all there is to it.

    • Irene Zion says:

      My dogs are Goldens, Matt.
      They are even Special Goldens.
      They would probably love mass-murderers, but I hesitate to test that.
      Today Brooklyn was draped with abused children.
      They were lying on her as if she were a pillow,
      and she couldn’t have been happier.
      They are a treasure, my dogs.

  6. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    The dog is not the only one with a big heart, dear. This was beautifully written. I enjoy reading your sculptures.

  7. George says:

    You are a true poet.

  8. Irene Zion says:

    Aw, shucks, George,
    coming from you
    all published to the
    power of n.
    I’m grateful.

  9. Joe Daly says:

    Oh my goodness, this was great! The way you did the dialogue gave it such a unique flow, that I started getting impatient with the poor woman you were talking with! Of course, I have a golden as well, so I was thinking, “you tell her, ‘Reney!” Yes, I even used that nickname for you in my head.

    I hope she calls you back.

    • Irene Zion says:

      She so needed someone to come over and be with her.
      Her mother had obviously never had a dog, if she couldn’t stand being kissed by one!
      She hasn’t called me yet, but I have her phone number….
      I suppose I could give her another shot.
      My dogs could turn anyone into a dog lover, just about.

  10. kristen says:

    Beautiful, Irene! I love this–

    My mother is my life, she says,

    She has some help during the day, she says,

    but really it’s up to her.

  11. Irene Zion says:


    Don’t you agree that the poor dear needed a visit at least once a week from a glorious dog and her handler?
    She could benefit.
    The mother, who knows?

  12. Ruthie says:

    I think this is a lovely piece. It says so much in not many words. The repetition mirrored how tired the woman must have been from doing the same arduous daily tasks over and over. It made her to tired to even make up her mind.

  13. Irene Zion says:

    That’s true, Ruthie.
    She really could hardly think from being so tired
    and trying to make everything perfect for her mother,
    who, let’s face it,
    at 94,
    things are just not going to be perfect,
    no matter how hard she tries.

  14. Judy Prince says:

    Irene, what a character that daughter is! You’re assessment that she needed the dog more than her mother needed it was spot on. You noted beautifully all the cues in her speech that revealed her increased interest in listening to you when she’d found out that you had taken care of your mother, too. We do so need to hear that someone’s been where we’ve been, done what we’ve done and suffered much like we are suffering. Wondrous how the knowing will break the back of tragedy.

    I got the feeling that her continual hearkening back to the probs re the dog being too big and licking was letting you know that she appreciated you and so valued talking to you but that she was aware of her duty to her mother who really preferred small dogs and ones that didn’t lick.

    Oh you are a marvelous quieter of spirits, Irene! You soothe. We TNBers are so fortunate to benefit from your wisdom and joy. I *heart* Irene!

  15. Lenore says:

    i woulda told her to fuck off.

  16. Jordan Ancel says:

    This is lovely, Irene. I know the healing powers of dog therapy very well, and I think it’s wonderful that you volunteer your Golden.

    I did have a good chuckle with, “I think that this is the lady who needs the visits from a therapy dog.”

    I agree.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you kindly, Jordan,

      It seemed obvious to me too, especially since I didn’t tell you all that her mother was shouting in the background.
      She might’ve been shouting because she was hard of hearing, but I got the distinct impression she was shouting at her daughter and not to her.

  17. Adam says:

    I want to whine about all the scrolling, but it instilled in me the same kind of low-profile antsiness as when I’ve been on the phone too long.

    …So I guess it’s perfect.

  18. Melissa(Irene's friend) says:

    I love your dogs and I never met them. They are as special as you are my friend.

    • Irene Zion says:

      (Wait till you see what I did to myself now, Melissa.)
      My dogs are the best ever.
      But your dogs are great too, and I only know that from hearing your stories about them.

  19. Tawni says:

    A non-licking, small dog? So… a cat, then? Sounds like a cat person to me.

    I loved reading this, Irene. Really well done.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I know, Tawni, what kind of dog exists that doesn’t lick?
      I know there are Therapy Miniature Horses, but I can’t say I know of any in the area.
      There are Therapy Cats, too, but I have a feeling this “clean” woman wouldn’t like all the fur.

      Can you imagine?
      This is an old, old lady and she is still caring for her mother night and day.
      I will spare my children that.
      That is a promise!

      …and Thank You, Tawni.

    • Irene Zion says:

      On the other hand, Tawni,
      we had a cat once who would sit on the back of the couch or the easy chair
      and suck on your hair.
      An inordinate amount of cat saliva was involved.
      I’m pretty sure that the older of the two would not stand for saliva, either.

      • Tawni says:

        I had a “dog-cat” like that once. He was a Maine Coon. He would constantly groom my head and face. So friendly and sweet. He slept in my arms like a big, fluffy teddy bear every night. Best cat ever. (:

        • Irene Zion says:

          Tawni, I’ve heard that Maine Coons are fabulous cats.
          I hear they are enormous.
          You were lucky to have him, eh?

        • Irene Zion says:

          My son and his wife have an alley cat and a Ragdoll.
          I always confuse Ragdolls with Maine Coons.
          I’m going to look them both up and figure out which is which for once.

  20. Lorna says:

    What a sweet and sad story. I bet the daughter could use a kiss on the face from your Brooklyn. I hope she calls you back. And yeah, maybe Mom needs cat therapy, not dog therapy.

    • Irene Zion says:

      But Lorna, how do I convince this little old lady that her mother cannot possibly like dogs?
      She found this picture!
      She’d pinned her hopes on it, for finally making her mother happy.
      Even if I could find a Therapy Cat in the area, how could I get her to agree when she is so sure?

      • Lorna says:

        I wish I had an answer for you Irene. Though, I wonder, if your Brooklyn might somehow sense not to lick the Mom. We had a dog once who somehow instinctively knew not to lick our daughter because she would break out in allergic rashes from doggie kisses. I have no idea how Misha knew not to lick my daughter. We didn’t teach her not to. She would kiss everyone else but our daughter. ???

        • Irene Zion says:

          Thank you. I didn’t think of that.
          When Brooklyn sees that any of her people are not where they are supposed to be in their wheelchairs downstairs in the nursing home, she pulls me to the elevator. Then when we get out on the person’s floor, she goes to their room and waits at the door for me to get permission to enter. She walks in, and climbs up on the bed, all 90 pounds of her on this little narrow bed, and steps carefully over the patient, never touching him, and snuggles next to him on the other side.
          The patients go wild over this. She wasn’t taught to do this. Maybe she wouldn’t lick the older of the old ladies….

  21. Very cool, Irene. Fascinating.

    I love the interaction here, and the repetition–which, to me, is the thinking out loud, the need some people have just to be heard (even when they are saying the same rather silly thing over and over).

    There was an old woman at the doctor’s recently (my daughter remembered this) who just kept repeating the silliest thing about where the Physical Therapy place was. It got absolutely ridiculous, but I realized that getting out to see the doctor was her only social event. It was where she got to people to listen to her (even if she had to pay them).

    Your poem reminds me of that–and the pathos of aging in general. And, of course, the love of dogs (I have two big dogs and one who will never pass therapy school because he gives the paw relentlessly)…I hope this woman calls you back and lets you bring your dog.

    Sounds like just what she needs.



    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh, Elizabeth, she really did need to be heard!
      The pathos of aging in general is on my mind a lot.
      Going to a nursing home is relentlessly sad.

      My Kimchee has everything down pat for Therapy Dog School, except she is a submissive pee-er. If anyone says “No.” to her, she pees a bit. Thus she has not taken the test, since that would disqualify her. She’s only just two, so I’m hoping she grows out of it because she would be terrific as a Therapy Dog!

  22. Kathy Powell says:

    I really enjoy your stories. The Mother and the Daughter would have enjoyed you and your beautiful dog!!! But, you tried, and that is all you can do. As a matter of fact, I need to make a visit soon to see you and your dog (oh, and Victor too!). Think we will be spending more time down there in the next few years 🙂
    Lenore cracks me up…..

    • Irene Zion says:

      You really do need to come visit!
      Lenore cracks you up, eh? Try thinking of her as your daughter, and then get back to me.

  23. So wonderful, Irene. Perfect timing, too. We’re on our way tomorrow to visit David’s mother in Ohio, who has had Stage IV cancer for 4 years and seems to have finally reached an end stage now, where she is confused and can’t walk and her liver can no longer process that chemo. She has a very wonderful dog, the best dog I’ve ever met, in fact, named Que, with whom she is more tender and affectionate than she has ever been towards another human being. I am sure that Que is giving her immense comfort right now. I’m not a dog lover and had not even thought about Que, in all my complicated thoughts about my mother-in-law, and our complex history, and my own fears of mortality, and the care-taking I’ve had to do of my own parents, and all of that muddlement, and suddenly you reminded me of Que and I am feeling the first burst of peace about all of this that I have felt in a week, so thank you.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Oh, Gina, your message has brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful it is that Irene’s story brought you such peace!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Dealing with protracted dying of a loved one, (or a loved one’s love one,) is not for the weak of heart.
      There are some people who are just not comfortable with people for whatever reason, even with family. Occasionally these people can use all the love that is bottled up inside them and place it safely on their dog.
      Who will take Que when David’s mother dies? Your kids deserve a good dog like this. Children tell their dogs things that they would never in a million years tell to their parents. Children derive comfort from a dog that cannot be found in anyone or anything else. Sometimes it’s the only place a kid feels safe. This is true. This was me, so I know.

      • I wish we could have Que when the time comes, but David’s father is still living, too, and would of course keep her, I believe. My kids absolutely love her. She is one in a million. I have never really cared much about dogs, but she’s very special. She is with the right person. My mother-in-law needs someone to have that kind of sweet bond with. She doesn’t like people very much (especially adults) but she is extremely good with dogs, and Que loves her like a baby loves its mother. She is not a small dog, but she sits on her lap and cuddles, lying on her back like a child. I’m sure she has not left her side now that she’s been in bed all the time and so ill.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Dogs know when they are needed. They can sense sickness and depression and just need in general. They are cheaper than a shrink and you can cuddle them.
          My Kimchee is 80 pounds and still thinks she’s an 8 pound puppy. She sprawls across my lap whenever I sit in my special chair. It makes it hard to read the newspaper, but maybe that’s a good thing, nowadays.

  24. D.R. Haney says:

    Can we expect more in this style, Irene? It seems you’ve been inching toward it for a while now, in your comments.

  25. jmblaine says:

    First she
    the non
    fiction people

    She licks.

  26. Very interesting style, Irene – really captured the conversation. Nice use of repetition, too. I could feel the personality of this woman coming through. She sounded exhausted and more than a little confused.

    Doesn’t really sound like she knows much about dogs, though… I, too, have never met a dog who doesn’t lick. That would be like a dog that doesn’t sniff. That’s part of their world. Indeed, it’s not the cleanest thing to be licked by a dog, but it’s part of the deal.

    I’m thinking about lending my cats to people, as therapy for myself. They’re driving me crazy…

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thanks, David,
      I have more than one lady at the nursing home that swear that Brooklyn’s licking cures their skin problems. I’ve also heard that a dog’s lick can clear up a surface infection. Who knows. Maybe it’s just in what you believe.

      • Studies have shown that the power of positive thinking can be both a tremendously positive and negative thing… If you believe something will help you, it can either make your body fight harder or stop fighting.

        Or, maybe, he has a magic tongue.

      • Jude says:

        That’s what my dad used to say – that if you have a cut on your skin, let the dog lick it…

        • Irene Zion says:

          Jude, I think it’s more than an old wives’ tale, I really do.
          I’m sure I read somewhere that there is something in a dog’s saliva that is beneficial.
          I believe it anyway, but then, I’m an old wife….

        • Jude says:

          Mmm.. that’s what my dad said. However I do balk at my dog kissing me just after she’s been licking her bum! Not sure there’s anything beneficial in those slurps!

        • Irene Zion says:

          I think the super dog saliva counteracts the bum germs.
          Makes them inert.

  27. Irene Zion says:

    I think that’s probably true, David.
    Oh, and both my dogs have magic tongues.
    For sure.

  28. ksw says:

    your dog is too big for a 94 year old, and she licks. i would suggest a visit by a cat. they don’t lick, and they will ignore you.

  29. Irene Zion says:


    My dog is ultra-gentle.
    She has been fine with people of that age.
    This lady just doesn’t want a dog.
    I agree, a cat would be much better.
    If the cat ignored her, which it would, it wouldn’t get her all messy with cat hair.

  30. Me, I think dog kisses are the best medicine known to man. The bigger and wetter the dog kisses, the better. Can pull me up from the depths of Dante’s Inferno, right on up to the Pearly Gates.

    Big sloppy dog kisses your way, Irene.

  31. Irene Zion says:

    I’m with you all the way, Rich,
    and I gladly accept the big sloppy dog kisses that are on their way to me!

  32. Dogs as therapy truly are a great medicine. Duke University does this — takes dogs around the various wards. I have two great pictures of my father with these animals. The two dogs that came to visit my dad were named Charlie and Gus, ironically Charlie was the name of a bird our family had when I was younger, and Gus was the name of a cat we had for 21-going-on-22 years before she passed, who used to stalk Charlie around the house, her tail back and forth like a clock’s hand.

    I enjoyed this Irene.

    My dog, Motzie, would definitely be out of the question for this lady’s mother. She’s a licker and a jumper.

  33. Irene Zion says:

    Hello Jeffrey!
    I love hearing about dogs that made a difference for sick or troubled people. Dogs need more of an ad campaign. So many people don’t understand what they are doing in nursing homes or places for abused children or hospitals or hospices. They only need to see the changes in the patients and clients to understand.
    In one place I go the most frequent question I get is ” DO HE BITE?” That just hurts so much to hear a kid assume a dog is an attack dog, but so many kids in the abused situation come from neighborhoods where the dogs are trained to attack, not to comfort. It takes these kids a while to get used to the idea and be comfortable with the dog.

    Motzie would only have to learn not to jump. Licking is totally allowed for a therapy dog! Jumping isn’t because it could knock over a kid or an old person. Although most of the old people I deal with aren’t able to stand and walk. They have to unlearn “give me your paw” too. The skin on old folks is so thin that the dog could easily hurt the old person, unwittingly.

  34. Tim says:

    I’m with Lenore on this one. That lady can eat shit.

  35. Irene Zion says:


    I want you all to know that my children are just doing this to embarrass me. They are in actuality fabulous and kind and thoughtful children who have a streak of prankster in them which leads them to wisecracking up the wazoo.

  36. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    I really like the poetry of what you wrote.

    As reality it’s pretty upsetting. I almost wonder if some elder assistance program should be contacted to try to assess the situation. When my mother was descending into Alzheimer’s she thought she was in charge of caring for a young infant. If a friend called to invite her to some social event, she told them she couldn’t go because she had to stay home to take care of the baby. She was able to be quite detailed and coherent in describing what she was doing so people were fooled at first. Even if there really is a mother, something is not right here beyond just being exhausted.

  37. Irene Zion says:

    Thanks, Marcia!

    I didn’t know that about your mother. At the nursing home we have a lady with a baby doll that she is convinced is her baby and it gives her much comfort. We have another lady with a stuffed dog which she believes is alive. This is also a comfort to her. As long as the care-givers know, I think it’s good for them. In your mother’s case, no one knew the real story and so she wasn’t getting the care she needed since she was so convincing on the phone. It isn’t easy to be in another state when your mother is in decline, but she doesn’t know it.
    I’m going to call this lady again and follow up.
    I think I need to get inside the home to assess the situation. The younger of the old ladies might also be needing help of her own, aside from that for her mother. There do not seem to be any other relatives involved, but I could be misinterpreting, from one frustrating phone call.

  38. angela says:

    i love this, irene! to echo what people have already said, the repetition and spareness make this really lovely.

    i’ve never had pets, but during a stressed out time in my life, i visited a friend who has two big dogs, one of whom promptly sat on my foot and leaned back on my leg. i instantly felt better and wanted to take her dog home with me.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You see, Angela, you felt it yourself.
      It is innate in dogs that they can feel the stress and want to mollify it for you.
      I find it to be an extraordinary gift.

  39. Junko says:

    Thanks Irene,I miss my mother .
    You are so much talented and sweet heart woman.
    See you soon.

    • Irene Zion says:


      You are the most wholesome and kind person I know.
      I know you miss your mother.
      It’s bittersweet after a while, feeling the loss and yet reliving the wonderful memories.
      Can’t do anything about it.
      It’s life, whether we want it to be that way or not.

  40. Simon Smithson says:

    Oh, what a wonderful piece, Irene. There was something so heartbreaking and plaintive about her repetitions.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Hi Simon,

      I worried about the repetitions. The conversation was even longer but basically she just kept saying the same phrases.
      I have to get back in touch with her.
      She is obviously frantic and exhausted.

      You and Zara have a blast with Lenore in NYC. I am so envious that I won’t see you two. The country is just too big to get everywhere in the time you have allotted.

  41. Aaron Dietz says:

    How far away does your organization travel? We miss dog company (we’d feel bad having one since we don’t have a yard), though we’d have to exaggerate a bit to claim we needed it as therapy….

  42. Irene Zion says:


    Brooklyn’s particular organization is Therapy Dogs International. That pretty much covers the whole world. They aren’t into space yet, but then, neither are people.
    They also have different categories. You can train your dog also in other areas. There are rescue dogs who find living people in rubble, cadaver dogs who find the dead, really just about anything you can think of.

    Recently I was recruited to train Brooklyn to be a rescue dog, but, although I would love doing it, it entails up and leaving town whenever there is a disaster. That is a too difficult for me, with all my commitments here.

    In Japan, they have services where you can rent a dog. Believe it or not, they also have services where you can rent a grandparent or grandparents. The population is shrinking and where there is a need, there is a service. I’d love to rent a mother. I’d do it in a moment!

  43. George Hellas says:

    Dear Irene–It is a very sweet piece to which, Christ knows, I can relate to.. After my dad died in NYC, my mother moved down here–(this is the simplest of statements–suffice it to say, I have not spoken to my brother in 7 years since my mother’s death at 92, not coincidently,7 years ago–bad family stuff). I looked after her for 20 years, rarely missing a Sunday lunch–when I was out of town, I’d call her and tell her I wasn’t feeling well and that I’d come by on Monday or Tuesday. I didn’t dare tell her that I was not close by for her. She rarely left her apartment on St. Charles; but about 10 years ago a fierce storm seemed about to come up the mouth of the River and i forced her to come stay at my home. We never had pets at home growing up–my dad had a mutt sort-of-watch dog at his record shop for a brief time–which my mother disliked intensely. Since my mother couldn’t climb up to the second floor where the bedrooms were, I set her up in a soft, velvet blue Chippendale wing-back with a stool and a nightstand with a glass of water, right next to the bathroom. She promptly fell asleep and was even lightly snoring.Although I was divorced by now, I was loving custodian of the 2 or 3 cat population tradition my two daughters had started, and there at least that many here and there around the house. There was colossal wind and rain that night and I was very concerned when I was awakened by a sound clearly of the front door downstairs opening. I ran downstairs to find my mother and her cane standing at the front door with the wind pushing rain all over her and the entryway. I’m sure I said something like “what the fuck are you doing”–she replied with utter disgust in her voice, that she was leaving and would not stay anyplace that had animals that licked people’s faces. I had to assure her that I would round up the cats and lock them down before she agreed not to walk out into the hurricane.

  44. Irene Zion says:

    George Hellas,

    This is hysterical! It’s also sad, but let’s concentrate on the funny part for now. Your really elderly mother was so incensed by being licked by the cats that she was walking out the door, with the help of her cane, in the middle of a hurricane? Was her plan to walk home in a hurricane at full bore? Wow!
    You are lucky you are a light sleeper, or you might not have heard her leave! She couldn’t possibly have survived that.
    Well, I guess that answers any lingering questions about whether bringing a dog who licks over to an elderly lady who does not want t be licked is a good idea or not.
    Even after almost twenty years of your caring for her, she would not be caught dead in your filthy cat-licking house!
    She sounds like she was some amazing character. I would love to hear more about her.
    Thanks for writing, George, this was really perfectly on topic!

  45. Ed says:

    Good cadence, good word crafting and good story there Ernestene. Just curious if you got the call back and if you retained your sanity if she did (call; clearly, her sanity had previously not been retained).

  46. Irene Zion says:

    Hey there, Ed!

    Nope. She never did call me back.
    But I’m going to call her when both my knees work again and see if I can visit the younger of the old ladies. I’m quite sure that the older of the old ladies does NOT want to see my dog anywhere near her.
    (Read George Hellas’ comment right above yours to see what happens if you try to thwart those that will not be licked!)

  47. Irene Zion says:

    Oh, Ed?

    Nothing but destruction in the kitchen!

  48. Amy says:

    My parents dog doesn’t like and he is a golden too. Wierd I know, but true. He definitely is not as sweet and trusting as your Brooklyn. He is more nervous and alpha. I’m sure Brooklyn would have made their day!

  49. Irene Zion says:


    I have never heard of a dog that didn’t lick, let alone a Golden!
    That’s gotta be unusual.
    Your parents’ dog swims, though, which is a Golden thing, and neither of mine will go near the water!

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      I used to tell people that I had pet dyslexia. Whenever the family went out together, our Labrador Retriever was only interested in trying to herd us together and the German Shepherd would want to do nothing but retrieve tennis balls.

  50. Irene Zion says:

    Can’t these dogs understand that they have assigned duties to perform that are expected of them?
    There’s a mold for every dog and they need to cleve to that mold!

  51. Carol Novack says:

    Well done, extremely effective, but what’s all this NON-fiction, Irene dear? And what about a therapy cat? I have 3 of them. They cuddle and wrap themselves around my head on the pillow, but they rarely lick. 🙂

  52. Irene Zion says:


    Look above at George Hellas’ comment.
    Those there were licking cats!
    (It’s a pretty funny story too, in a black humor kind of funny.)

  53. Carl D'Agostino says:

    Whew! What patience. Did you use the therapy dog after that? Tell ya what. I’m 60 retired, could use xtra few bucks. I’ll visit the old lady twice a week for half the price. I don’t lick, bark, am house broken and no fleas!

  54. Irene Zion says:

    But Carl,
    half of no charge is no charge,
    so you won’t make money doing it.
    On the other hand,
    your heart will fill up
    more than you knew was possible.
    Brooklyn is volunteering this morning.

  55. Irene — this is wonderful! The repetition and clean, spare language just add to the beauty.

    I too have never met a dog who doesn’t lick — big or small — and I have three in ascending order — the smallest is currently licking my ankle as I type. And it NEVER ends!

  56. Irene Zion says:

    Thanks, Robin, for the kind words.

    A little boy asked this morning if she would bite if he poked her here?
    See for yourself, I said.
    here? See for yourself, I said.
    here? Try, I said.
    here? Nope, I said.
    here? What do you think? I said.
    here? Hasn’t bitten so far, I said.
    here? Go ahead and see, I said.

    He must have poked my poor dog everywhere.
    He even lifted her lip and poked her teeth.
    She just sits there and allows it.
    She knows sometimes they just have to test her.
    She’s not worried.

  57. Erika Rae says:

    This was poetry, Irene. Just tottering on the brink of madness. You did this so well. Wow.

  58. Irene Zion says:

    Thank you kindly, Erika Rae,
    I’m afraid that is exactly where she is tottering.
    Imagine being responsible, alone, at an elderly age for a more elderly and sick mother.
    I would be tottering at the very least, probably already fallen over the brink.

  59. Duff says:

    That is heart wrenching, I can’t imagine the stress that this woman is under.
    I hope you hear back from her!

  60. Irene Zion says:

    I know, Duff, it’s enough to just break your heart.
    I haven’t heard yet,
    but I’m giving her a bit more time
    and then I’m calling her.
    Just give it a try….

  61. Irene Zion says:

    Andrew, you give me too much credit.
    It’s the dog that does the work here.
    I’m just the taxi driver.
    I’m going to start bringing my Kimchee into places, along with Brooklyn.
    She’s not passed the test yet, but I think if she gets some experience, perhaps she’ll stop the submissive peeing thing that would make her flunk.
    It’s funny, because in the house she is the one who pushes Brooklyn around.
    I can’t figure it out.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      My (much smaller) Lab used to trounce our big Shepherd on a regular basis – he would even lie on his back and let her “pin” him by his neck… until he got tired and just stood up, letting her fall to the floor like overripe fruit. Since he died, I have to stand almost on top of her to get her to eat her meals because she always waited for him to start first, signaling that it was okay for her to join in. Who is alpha isn’t always obvious to outsiders.

  62. Irene Zion says:

    Geez, Anon,

    That is a really sad story.
    Poor lonely puppy!
    You must immediately get an emergency back-up dog!

  63. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    We’re taking a family vacation in the beginning of June. While we haven’t made plans or promises, we’ll probably start looking at German Shepherd pups and/or rescue dogs when we return. Sigh. So much for sleep, with those 2a.m. walkings….

  64. Irene Zion says:

    Oh, Anon,

    You know that puppies only take a few months to train.
    Those few months are totally worth it.
    Make sure you have a crate!
    And LOTS of chew toys!
    Then the baby won’t eat so much of your rug, or TV tuner, or cell phone.
    It is ALL worth it, in the end.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      I’ve got two crates, one that was Godzilla-sized for when our GSD started growing. He was like the velociraptor in the opening of Juraissic Park – if you left the house with anything on or near the crate, rest assured it would be hanging half-out of it and in tatters by your return.

      He went through phone cords, handsets, a leather coat, portions of drywall (must’ve budged his face up against it like a rat for one of them), two remotes, a few towels, the livingroom carpet (twice), a two-foot strip of linoleum (torn up from the kitchen floor), two full rolls of wrapping paper and the middle portion of the kiddie-gate we initially used to keep him locked in the kitchen, pre-Gigantor crate. I miss him terribly.

  65. Irene Zion says:

    We had a dog who chewed sideways through the crate and into the drywall too!
    Had one that gnawed a whole in the hard-wood floor.
    Kimchee ate portions of three oriental rugs.
    But every bit was worth it in the end.

  66. Pat Gray says:

    What a stimulating conversation!! How nice of you. I truly enjoyed reading the short story and want to know if there was a phone call when you got back.

  67. Irene Zion says:


    The younger old lady didn’t ever call me back.
    I have her number, somewhere, though, and I plan to call her in a week or two to see if she might let me just come over and see her with the dog.
    I’m not quite sure how to handle it, but I’ll figure something out on the fly.
    Thanks for reading, Pat!

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