Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Goodbye, Maggie May"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
There is nothing grander than being a grandparent, especially if your grandchildren are as grand as mine.

That is true of Chloe, Lilly and Xavier, who run, walk and toddle about on two legs.

It also was true of Maggie, who scampered about on four legs, balanced by a tail on one end and an eating machine on the other.

Our younger daughter, Lauren, who is Chloe and Lilly’s mommy, was Maggie’s mommy, too. My wife, Sue, and I were Maggie’s grandparents.

Now our family is a lot less fun and much quieter because Maggie, a whippet mix with a big personality and a voice to match, died recently at the age of 13.

The first thing Lauren did when she moved out of the house, officially making Sue and me empty nesters, was to get a dog. She chose a 7-month-old black and white bundle of energy she named Maggie May, after the Rod Stewart song, though Sue also called her Margaret, or Marge, or Margie, or Madge, or Mags, or some variation thereof.

Whatever the moniker, Maggie was Lauren’s first baby.

When Lauren met her future husband, Guillaume, Maggie accepted him right away, which said volumes because Maggie wasn’t overly fond of guys of the human species, though I was an exception, too, because Maggie instinctively knew, don’t ask me how, that her grandfather was an easy touch.

One of the reasons Lauren and Guillaume were such a great match was that, as Lauren later said, “I couldn’t marry somebody my dog didn’t like.”

When Lauren was expecting Chloe, we all worried how Maggie would accept the baby. She could be territorial and jealous, but she was nothing but loving and protective when Chloe arrived. They were pals from the start, a big sister who barked and a little sister who giggled. It was play time all the time.

Due to complicated circumstances involving a house rental, Maggie lived with Sue and me the past two years, though she often saw Lauren, Chloe, Lilly and Guillaume and loved every minute of being with all of us. She especially loved Lauren and knew she was, after all, still her mommy’s dog.

And she loved Sue and the girls, who loved her right back.

It may be true that every dog has its day, but not a day went by that I didn’t think there was no dog with a bigger appetite for life, as well as food of all kinds, than Maggie.

Joey Chestnut, the human vacuum cleaner who sucks down scores of wieners each year in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, eats like a bird compared to Maggie.

We could have fed Maggie an ox and she would have wolfed it down in about two minutes. But if Sue and I sat down to dinner immediately thereafter, Maggie would stand at the table, still hungry and begging for more.

She ate so much that I feared she would explode like a canine Hindenburg, prompting me to exclaim, “Oh, the animality!”

Nonetheless, she was fussy. She would eat dry dog food only if every other source of nourishment on the planet shriveled up. She liked the treats and hearty meals that Sue gave to her on what seemed like an hourly basis. But Maggie, who was plump but not fat, sometimes got tired of one thing, which forced Sue to switch to something else. I thought Maggie should have gone to the supermarket with Sue so she could pick out what she wanted to eat that week.

Naturally, Sue would have to buy the groceries because Maggie didn’t have a paying job. But she did earn her keep by being our auxiliary alarm system. That’s because Maggie liked to bark. And she did, often relentlessly, if someone came to the door, or a repairman entered the house, or a squirrel scampered by, or a leaf blew past the window.

It made me wonder why dogs never get laryngitis.

But Sue and I felt secure with Maggie around.

As she got older, she had her physical challenges. We are indebted to the good folks at Jefferson Animal Hospital for taking such wonderful care of her.

The end came suddenly. Now there is a void in our house and in our hearts.

Rest well, good girl. Eat well, too. In doggy heaven, you’ll never go hungry.

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"A Visit From the Tooth Fairy"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
For grownups, making money can be like pulling teeth. Kids have it so much better because they don’t have to pay to have a tooth extracted. They can just wait for it to fall out. Then they can go to sleep and count on the Tooth Fairy to leave them money, which not only saves them the trouble of going to work and actually earning it, but eliminates service fees because the moola can go straight into their piggy banks.

This was the valuable dental and financial lesson learned recently by my granddaughter Chloe, who is 5 and a half and, thanks to the Tooth Fairy, has more shiny coins than I do because, unfortunately, I don’t have a piggy bank.

Chloe lost her first tooth, the lower right central incisor, which wiggled and wobbled for a couple of weeks before succumbing to gravity and some gentle prodding by her mommy, my younger daughter, Lauren, who had prepared for the big event by looking up modern Tooth Fairy protocol.

But first, there was an announcement.

“Poppie!” Chloe chirped over the phone. “I have a loose tooth!”

“That’s wonderful, Honey!” I exclaimed. “And when it falls out, you’ll get a visit from the Tooth Fairy!”

“That’s right, Poppie!” Chloe replied excitedly. “And she’ll leave me money!”

“That’s right, Chloe!” I said, continuing a conversation punctuated by exclamation points.

“I can’t wait!” said Chloe, who nonetheless did not get an immediate windfall because the tooth stubbornly hung on.

It didn’t fall out during a visit to the dentist. According to Lauren, Chloe announced in the office that she wouldn’t be getting her adult teeth until she’s 44.

“She also said she wasn’t going to chew bubble gum until she’s 16,” Lauren reported.

The next chance for the tooth to fall out was that weekend, when Chloe spent a night with me and my wife, Sue.

“Maybe the Tooth Fairy will visit you tonight,” I told Chloe.

“I hope so, Poppie,” said Chloe, who opened wide to show Sue and me her delicate denticle. “Then she could visit me at my house, too.”

I could see that Chloe, who is good with numbers, was already counting on doubling her money.

To facilitate a payday, I took her to Dunkin’ Donuts, where she bit into a strawberry frosted doughnut with rainbow sprinkles. Unfortunately, it was too soft to knock out the tooth. So was a pizza dinner and the next morning’s sausage-and-egg breakfast.

When I brought her home that afternoon, she watched a “Muppet Babies” episode devoted to the Tooth Fairy.

The video inspiration worked like a charm because that evening, Chloe’s tooth finally fell out. The next day, she called to report the good news.

“I thought it was going to hurt, but it wasn’t so bad,” she told me.

“Did the Tooth Fairy come?” I asked.

“Yes!” Chloe replied. “She left me eight shiny coins under my pillow.”

Those coins, Lauren said when she got on the phone, were quarters, so Chloe got to deposit $2 in her piggy bank.

“She also got a certificate from the Tooth Fairy,” said Lauren, who went online to print it out.

“The Tooth Fairy has a website?” I asked.

“Dad,” Lauren said, “you can find anything on the internet.” She added that Chloe was impressed. “She said, ‘Ooh, a certificate!’ It had her name on it, so it was official.”

My orthodontist was impressed, too.

“Did your granddaughter get 50 cents?” Dr. Ammar Alsamawi asked during my visit to the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York, where, he said, the Tooth Fairy has an office.

“Even better,” I told him. “She got two bucks.”

“I guess the Tooth Fairy has to keep up with inflation,” Dr. Alsamawi said. “I wish I’d lose my teeth so I could make money.”

“First,” I said, “you have to buy a piggy bank.”

Chloe’s is about to get fuller because when Sue and I saw her a few days later, she opened wide to show us the gap in her teeth. Then she pointed to the adjacent tooth and said, “It’s getting wobbly. The Tooth Fairy is going to come back.”

“Until Chloe loses the rest of her baby teeth,” I told Lauren, “you’ll have to keep putting your money where her mouth is.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima