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Sunday, Feb. 18, 2001

JAPAN LITE

Memories of Fido remain from hair to eternity


I am covered, head to foot, in dog hair. It's as if it had rained cats and dogs and I splashed through a puddle of them.

Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of dog hair completely. You can try washing your clothes, but dog hairs have a way of floating around the wash water and reattaching themselves to cuffs, linings, armpits, and drawstrings, lodging themselves permanently, cleanly, into your garment.

The source of the dog hair is my mother's house. When I was growing up, the neighbors used to call our house "The Zoo" because we had so many animals. The neighbors were right. We should have charged admission.

Nowadays, my mother has only dogs. Although she has just two dogs at the moment, there's enough dog hair in her house to fully attack anyone who happens to walk through the front door with a trace of static cling. I think this is my mother's way of avoiding vacuuming.

My mother has dog hair in her house dating back to my childhood and the family beagle. One can find a stray hair resting on the chandelier, stuck between the paneling in the wall, lying inside a wine glass stored high up in a high cabinet, protruding from a cushion on the sofa, among the dirt under the plants, hiding between the cables of a knit sweater, stuck to the end of a roll of cellophane tape, on the bottoms of shoes, pasted to the honey jar, adhered to the lamp shade, or resting in the corner of the pantry. Or sometimes something in the air will catch your eye -- a floater.

There is no place dog hair cannot transport itself. Once, I found a dog hair nestled in my scarf while I stood atop Mont Blanc, in France.

My father has a game in which, when he sees me, he says, "Aha! Who might this be from?" and he removes a hair from the lining of his coat and holds it up to the light. I examine the length, the color and the condition. I pass the hair under my nose to check for a trace of a scent, then try to guess which dog.

Was it from the family beagle of 20 years ago? The Labrador retriever who, at age 3, died from eating the farmer's poison? The emotionally charged, irritating little mutt who finally died at 18? The dog who windsurfed? The three-legged spaniel? The dog who used to sing to wake us up in the mornings? The dog we found tied to our mailbox? The list went on.

Every evening since I can remember, there has been the ritual "dog cocktail party" held at my mother's house. After dinner, the humans sit in the living room sipping their cocktails and socializing, while each dog chooses a person and sidles up next to him or her. The dog cocks his head to the side and assumes an expectant look. This is often followed by a joyous tail wag, designed to convince anyone who is truly human to break down and talk to him saying, "Good dog, yes, you're a cute dog, yes, you're the best dog," and other grandiose, inane comments while, furiously patting him on the head.

Soon another dog, overcome with jealousy, sidles up next to you forcing the other dog to move on to the next human. The dogs move around the room, from person to person, schmoozing with every one in the room.

"Amy-san? Amy-san?" said the deliveryman holding a package. "Are you OK?"

"Oh, uh, yes," I said, standing in the "genkan," still staring at the package that was addressed to me in my mother's handwriting.

"Ah, a package from America. You must be homesick," he said.

"Well, yes, maybe a little," I said.

He handed me the package, but I couldn't stop staring at the address label. There was a long brown hair with a black tip stuck between the label and the package.

"The basset hound!" I exclaimed, as the deliveryman made a speedy exit.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com


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