She was a 14-pound lab-hound mix rescued with her siblings from a cardboard box on the side of the road in Kentucky. She was lanky and floppy, with big paws and ears she’d eventually grow into. When my husband picked her up and cradled her against his chest, she looked up at him and licked his chin, like she already knew she was ours. We called her Penelope Chews — Penny for short.

I was told getting a dog would be my gateway drug to wanting a baby. There are the obvious joys: When we get home from work, her tail wags furiously and she darts from my husband back to me, splitting her affection equally, pressing her body against our legs and turning her face up toward us, so grateful we have returned to her. When my husband and I take her for a run, she grabs the leash in her mouth to slow him down because I’ve fallen behind. When her velvet ears shift back on her head like a sail adjusting to the wind, or perk up into silky quotation marks, framing what I imagine to be thoughts of, “BONE!” “TREAT!” SQUIRREL!” When the light hits her sleepy eyes, making them into yellow wolf-like slits. When she circles the space next to me on the couch and drops into a tired pile against my thigh. More… “Puppy Parenthood”

Alena Dillon is the author of the humor collection I Thought We Agreed to Pee in the Ocean. Her work has appeared in publications including Slice Magazine, The Rumpus, Bustle, The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, and Weston Magazine. She earned her MFA from Fairfield University and teaches creative writing at Endicott College and St. Joseph’s College. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and the very spoiled subject of this essay.


My birthday cake sat on the dining room table. Fluffy, Linda’s elderly tabby, made an unhurried entrance to join the more-energetic Sam, who’d claimed a close place as soon as we put the cake box on the table. Sam’s full cat-name is “Sammy-get-down from-there.”


I’ve never seen Sam leap from the floor to the table. He favors a stealthy approach. He jumps onto a chair and sits like an attentive, polite guest waiting for the platter to come around. Sometimes he even lies down on the seat as though indifferent to the conversation that flows over him. He doesn’t fool me.

If he’s occupying someone’s chair, Sammy-get-down-from-there gives up his seat, but not before giving a reproachful look to indicate his displeasure.

I’ve been told that the cake is going on the traditional family cake plate, which Linda… More…

I’ve always had pets, but the guys I’m rooming with in college aren’t animal lovers and don’t want one in the apartment. I want a dog, but even a less traditional animal, such as a turtle or even a fish, would be OK with me. Can a poem help out in this situation? — Mike C.


Most certainly. I’m thinking not only of a poem but of a whole book of poems, The Truro Bear by Mary Oliver. It’s a wonderful book of poems with animals as subjects, everything from possums to dogs to turtles.


Now I see it— it nudges with its bulldog head the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble; and now it noses along in the wake of the little brown teal

who is leading her soft children from one side of… More…


Responsibly following the debate over health care reform? Reading the editorials? Watching the president’s speeches and his opponents’ responses? Casually perusing the 223 pages of Montana Senator Max Baucus’ long-anticipated proposal? If so, you probably didn’t notice that this month — when the country’s efforts to cover tens of millions of uninsured citizens, and lower costs for the rest, is hitting a climax — just happens to be Pet Health Insurance Month.

“You lie!” you blurt out. “It’s true!” I respond.

The effort is of course symbolic: Various agencies and industries have declared September to be National Sewing Month and National Coupon Month and National Preparedness Month and National Cholesterol Education Month. These attempts aim to raise awareness of and appreciations for sewing and coupons and emergency preparedness and cholesterol checks and pet health insurance…. More…


Who, if anyone, will benefit from Michael Jackson’s death? The obvious answer is TMZ, the Web and TV tabloid organization that was supposedly legitimized by their breaking the news that the King of Pop was indeed dead. The more obscure answer is the Center for Great Apes in central Florida.

It’s not that anyone welcomed the news. It’s just that the Center is the current home of Bubbles. Everybody remembers Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, who appeared with the singer in the ’80s. But nobody really knows whatever happened to him. In the wake of the singer’s death, rumors circulated that Bubbles was a plastinated display in Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit in London (and that Jackson had plans to join him). But Bubbles was actually still very much alive, and still in the States.




If summer needs an animal ambassador, might I suggest the humble hermit crab? Autumn has its migrating geese fleeing winter’s creep, the spring its chicks and lambs and bunnies and other quasi-religious symbols of annual renewal. Summer is a different beast. Nothing is being ushered in, nothing escorted out. It just is, which feels about a hermit crab’s speed, doesn’t it?

This might be a lot of weight to put on the crustacean’s fragile exoskeleton, but summer and the hermit crab have much in common. Both are prickly and finicky. Like the season’s heavy heat, a crab can seem to just sit there, doing nothing; but turn your back on either, and they disappear.

Beginning this week, millions of Americans will make day-long and weekend-long and week-long and season-long treks to the continent’s shores. Some will come… More…