So far I’m not a fan of 2013, or more aptly named by the ancient Chinese Zodiac, “Year of the Snake”. Let me break it down…First, my beloved car “Tackle box” burst into flames on U.S. 1 thus leaving us with the unenviable task of finding a ride home and buying a car for the first time in nearly a decade. A month later, while vacuuming my area rug; the wheels literally fell off. The bottom of the vacuum just gave up and then sort of disintegrated right before my eyes. Apparently, this sent up a red flag to the appliances in my laundry room, because days later my washing machine started dumping water on to the floor as a sure sign of solidarity. This brazen act sent a clear message to the dryer which began shrinking clothes at an alarming rate while simultaneously making the clothes so hot I was forced to treat them like a game of Hot Potato. At first I thought, “No, the dryer wouldn’t do this to me- maybe the clothes aren’t shrinking…fingers crossed I’m just getting fatter.” No such luck, after our last house guest found their favorite T-shirt in the dryer where it now resembled a baby onesie, I had to face facts and lay the blame squarely on the rusted out shoulders of our dryer and sadly not my hips. Do you see what I mean? So far the “Year of the Snake” cost me a car, vacuum, washer, dryer and the unforgivable breach of etiquette of ruining the clothing of a guest and make me question the size of my thighs! But wait there’s more…
You know how they say, “When it rains, it pours”, “A fool and his money are soon parted”, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well I don’t know who these wizards/ prophets are, but pay heed- they know of what they speak (Except for the last one, I have no idea what that means). The “Year of the Snake” had us in its sights and I was running out of patience and money.
Then just like in the movies, a ray of sunshine through the clouds. My husband and I went home to FL after a two year absence. We saw old friends and family; we went to the beach every morning and basked in the sun and surf, we ate and drank at all of our old favorite haunts… and then the “Year of the Snake” sank its teeth in us once again with a rock to the windshield and one last fateful family dinner where we drunkenly agreed to be the new owners of a 102 pound Labrador Retriever. How did this happen you might ask? We were shanghaied- simple as that! We went over for a family dinner, had a few drinks, and heard a sob story about a family member moving to foreign lands, a new baby, and not enough time in the day for the poor neglected animal. Before I knew what was happening, we were in our truck headed home, loaded down with long forgotten family memorabilia, some seashells, a basket of dog toys, and the largest Lab you’ve ever seen.
Who can say “No!” to desperate loved ones? Well not this sucker as it turns out. Eleven hours later we arrived back home to our quiet town of Southern Pines. My husband and I both exhausted and in desperate need of sleep. We drug our luggage out of the car and collapsed into bed. Our new dog Dodge however had different plans. His car ride had been spent luxuriating on a plush dog bed where he took turns gnawing on a giant bone and taking long siestas. By the time he got to his new home, Dodge was well rested and ready to play. Beleaguered, we belatedly remembered his basket of toys and set them down in front of him in hopes he might play quietly and leave us to our slumber.
Dodge looked excitedly at his bin of goodies and immediately dove in with abandon. Simultaneously, grabbing some large pool rings out of his basket; he slung them around his neck, shoved two squeaky toys in his mouth and began playing soccer with a well-worn tennis ball. As the delirious dog ran squeaking by, my jaw dropped and my husband exclaimed, “Why, he’s a circus dog!”
“No.” I whispered reverently, “What we have here is a shop dog.”
And so it came to pass that on a blustery cold morning I opened up the shop with a giant dog bed, dog bone, and Dodge. I’ve always loved the idea of a shop dog. A sweetly mannered laid back pooch that’d curl up next to me behind the counter or maybe sun himself in the shop window and lazily greet customers as they enter. My last dog was an angel, but he had a distaste for traveling far from the comfort of our queen bed or my lovely neighbors couch. Now, Dodge gave me another chance at having my own cool Mockingbird mascot.
I chose a day to initiate him when the weather was fowl and rendered my shop a ghost town. Dodge and I would open up the store together and bond over our mastery of our tiny little kingdom on Broad St… Of course, as soon as I opened the shop door the fantasy dissolved. Dodge who seemed oversized back at the house now seemed gargantuan. His great thwacking tail swung wildly, barely avoiding vases, candles, stacks of books and the most adorable glass pigs. His great nose pressed into shelves of pillows and rugs and then his serpent like tail finally struck a lovely set of salt and pepper shakers and sent them crashing to the ground. Alarmed by the noise of the crash he began racing around the shop like a Clydesdale in an arena leaving little jingling noises in his wake. Then much to my horror, Dodge skidded to a halt at the sight of my beautifully decorated display bed. The hundred pound dog eyed it with such adoration he reminded me of the old cartoon I watched as a kid, the one where Pepe Le Pew finds the girl skunk of his dreams and his black skunk eyes turn into giant red pulsing hearts. Before I could stop him the large beast flew on to the bed, circled and landed with a sigh.
This all happened in 45 seconds…I had to shut my eyes against the horror. The words, “Bull in a China shop” had horrific new meaning. Dodge managed to take 10 years off of my life, grant a 50% off bedding sale, and forever destroy my fantasy of Dodge being the new face of Mockingbird. With my nerves shot, I began to sweep up the shrapnel from Dodges wake and I tried to figure out what to do with him for the rest of the day. Would he calm down or should I face facts, close up shop, and race him home before anything else catastrophic occurred? As I weighed my options the little ding of the shop door chimed to announce our first Customer of the day. With cat like reflexes one would not expect from a large mutant sized dog, he sprang from the bed sprinted to the front of the shop and did the thing that made my heart stop, my wrinkles deepen, and the taste of bile rise to the back of my throat. Dodge stood on his hind legs, rested his paws on our customer’s shoulders, and licked her face from chin to forehead. I swooned. I actually swooned.
Let me just say, I pride my shop on being a place where guests can wander in and feel at home. There are thoughtful journals and cards or books and paper masks that will make you laugh out loud. Customers become friends and from time to time they will stop in, pull up an old rickety stool from behind the counter, and tell me what’s new. It’s not unusual for strangers to come in to the store and leave having shared some burden or confided either a sadness or great joy. I think sometimes it’s easier to reveal yourself to a total stranger. I love the interaction, as well as the idea that a simple shop in downtown Southern Pines can also have an elevated purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I like selling mustached sunglasses as well as the next guy, which is why I saw the end of days when witnessing my dog standing as large as a man accosting said customer whose only feature I could discern was a blonde ponytail.
I rushed to the front of the store ordering Dodge to cease and desist while frantically apologizing to the blonde ponytail who was obscured by the dog’s giant head. Startled by my hysterics he quickly got down and to my extraordinary relief I heard giggling come from Dodges victim. The blonde ponytail was none other than my good friend Lauren. After ascertaining that all limbs were intact and there were no injuries, I treated her for mild shock with a promise of a bottle of Prosecco. She graciously offered to hold down the fort so I could run the most out of control mascot home for good.
Oh yes, the “Year of the Snake” is alive and well. It might have given me a pass on what could’ve been a real game changer with the whole “When Animals Attack,” scenario, but there are several months left in the year for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know what else 2013 has in store for us but I’ll be sleeping with one eye open until December 31st takes a bow and officially draws to a close. The year has seen to it that we replace appliances, witness our dear car Tackle box burst into flames Viking Funeral style, purchase a new car and come home from Florida with a giant dog with a delicate constitution. I don’t want to hazard a guess as to what else might be in store.
For now, I will content myself with the knowledge that things can be replaced and new pets can be a good thing. As I sit at work, I know there is a great headed, beaver tailed, circus dog tucked in bed waiting for us to come home. As we get to know him we stand amazed as he reveals his latest talents to our friends and family. I guess the shop doesn’t need a mascot after all. Meanwhile, the shop is open and an empty stool is waiting beside the register for the next customer who has an even bigger tale to tell…