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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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February 2012

…Comedy Show Maybe

I’m embarrassed to call Frankie a Pekingese. Meet Malachy, winner of the 136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club’s Best in Show. And a Pekingese.

The only dogs that looked more ridiculous were a hairless Chinese Crested and a Poodle that paraded around with its’ bouffant hair-do and ballooned ankles. This mop-on-a-leash actually elicited laughs from the audience and caused one announcer to jokingly wonder if he could even make it around the ring. Large dogs ran around the arena. Most had a gait that at least required their handlers to break into a fast walk. Malachy waddled. And his handler walked like he was waiting on Grandma with her walker. Malachy was the only dog continually being fluffed and groomed on camera. But he was also the only dog I saw with such potential for a bad hair day.

After Malachy took the Toy Group, the action culminated with seven dogs, one from each division, competing for Best in Show honors. There was an interesting moment when the final judge was announced. (She’d  actually been sequestered for two days like a jury member on a celebrity murder trial.) After introducing her and her stewards (whatever they are,) a brief scuffle ensued behind them. Since the announcers didn’t miss a beat or even acknowledge it, I had to look it up. PETA protesters had turned up. Now, I happen to agree that it’s senseless that millions of unwanted animals die every year while breeders keep churning out full-breds and designer dogs, but I enjoy a good spectacle as much as the next girl.

And spectacle it was. The final seven did another lap around Madison Square Garden under dimmed lights and swirling spotlights. The grand finale had all the building tension and drama of a tightrope act at the circus. Malachy was up against some real dog’s dogs. We’re talking a German Shepherd, a Doberman and a Dalmatian. Dogs that would’ve laughed this little guy right out of the dog park.

As I watched his little pink tongue panting with the effort of his exertions, I strained to see something of Frankie in him. Maybe the large, round eyes. Thankfully, it was hard to see any resemblance whatsoever. I’m sure you’ll agree. And from now on, whenever anyone asks what kind of dog Frankie is, I’ll tell them he’s a Pekingese mix. Emphasis on the mix.

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Belle of the Ball

Frankie has been getting entirely too much attention lately. But long before there was the constant barking, gnawed-on shoes and half-eaten garbage, there was the quiet, peaceful existence of a writer and her cat.

Bella found me (quite literally) in December of 2005. I had recently put down my cat of 14 years and I was outside raking leaves. Raking and crying. It had only been a couple of months since his passing and yard work had been our “special time.” Tears were streaming down my face when a white kitten with blue eyes jumped out of the bushes and started chasing the rake. I decided it was a sign.

We spent the better part of an afternoon getting to know each other. She dissolved into purrs beneath my hand. She was attention starved and oh-so loving. My next-door neighbor saw us outside. He didn’t know who she belonged to, but he’d seen her the night before on our street. I knew it had been close to freezing on recent nights. She had on a pink collar with rhinestones. I was falling in love with someone’s pet.

I left to run an errand. I knew she might be gone when I returned, but I secretly hoped she wouldn’t be. When I came home, there was no sign of her. I opened the door and looked up and down the street. Nothing. The third time I checked — there she was — across the street, in a driveway. She looked up at me and bounded across two yards to my front door. The same next-door neighbor laughed and hollered over to me, “She picks you!”

As it turned out, some college girls had adopted her before learning that their third roommate was allergic. They’d been keeping her outside and planned to return her to the Humane Society the next day. They’d been trying to find a home for her. At last attempt, she’d been shipped off with a boyfriend who owned two big Boxers. They were relieved to give her up to me. I’m sure she was relieved to get away from the Boxers.

She came with her name and her pink diamond collar. I took the collar off, but it was too late. Her personality was already infused with the entitled air of a princess. She’s clearly an indoor girl. She goes outside in my small yard only when I’m watching. She would never jump the fence. She doesn’t jump. Or climb. Or even relish high places. My mom says she’s the perfect cat for me cause I take so long at the door and she never runs out. My mother once accidentally left the door ajar and the wind blew it wide open. It was like that for half the day and I came home with Frankie in a panic to find her lounging on the bed.

Maybe her first few months served her well. Now she can really appreciate attention from someone who’s not allergic and treasure a warm bed on a cold night. And after holding her own against Boxers, she can certainly handle Frankie.

Frankie has made me love dogs in addition to cats and I’ll always be writing about him and his mischievous ways. But behind this adorable dog that hogs the spotlight is a sweet and unassuming kitty. When it comes to these two, it’s true what they say: you never forget your first love.

Happy Kind and Thoughtful Day

Being able-bodied and single for so many years, I have to say that Valentine’s Day used to cause me a lot of angst. If I didn’t have a boyfriend, that fact was made painfully obvious. And if I did, there was the constant worry over what he would or wouldn’t do and the terrible disappointment of not having my expectations met. Either way, I lost.

Now, I actually enjoy the holiday. Without troubling over whether I’m alone or just with someone who makes me feel like I am, I can really get into it. I usually buy valentines for family and friends alike and Mom and I trade red cellophane hearts stuffed with chocolate and gifts so tacky they’re cute, like last year’s plush bumblebee that sang Be My Baby.

I think everyone (who doesn’t have the perfect gift-giving spouse or significant other) should know this joy without becoming disabled. That’s why I’m suggesting that every February 14th become a day of benevolence and general consideration to everyone, even strangers. You know, like the whole random acts of kindness thing, except more concentrated. Make it a day less about romantic love and partners and more about just being nice.

One of the big perks of disability is getting to see lots of human kindness. My mom jokes she likes to take me out cause we might get our bill paid. Seriously! It’s happened at two different restaurants. Some kind stranger has picked up our tab. Another time, a friend and I went shopping at a consignment store. In recounting the total, we figured I got the “wheelchair discount.” It was cheap in there, but not that cheap! And I can’t count the number of times I’ve been walking Frankie and someone has offered to pick up his poop. Can you imagine?

I think that kind of generosity should extend to everyone, not just the handicapped. And if it’s done on Valentine’s Day (or the entire month of February,) a lot of people can avoid a lot of holiday-fueled anxiety. Now, I’m not suggesting you start picking up after some stranger’s dog, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

♥ Open doors for people behind you.

♥ Let someone with just a few items in front of you at the checkout.

♥ Send e-cards to friends.

♥ Don’t forget your “thank you” wave.

♥ Give a carnation to your co-workers — all of them.

♥ Be nice to someone you don’t like.

♥ Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

♥ Bring treats to work (or for the health-conscious — fresh fruit.)

♥ Pay the tab of the person behind you in the drive-thru at Starbucks.

 And don’t forget — in the event my idea doesn’t take off, be kind to yourself. In my office days, I wasn’t above sending flowers to myself. From a secret admirer, of course. The person at the flower shop is the only one who’ll know. And I’m sure they get it all the time.

Loitering Allowed

My independence has taken quite a few hits over the years, but one inability irks me more than any other. I can handle being unable to write by hand. I’ve grown accustomed to having my food prepared for me. And I can’t really say I mind being unable to work. If a genie popped out of a bottle to grant me only one wish instead of three, I’d certainly wish I could walk again, right? Wrong. I’d give anything to sit behind the wheel in bumper to bumper traffic.

I sympathize with a whole different generation now. Senior citizens. To finally have a concerned family member tell you your driving days are over — ouch. Driving is independence. Being able to get from point A to point B on your own, without asking anyone’s permission. That’s huge. It’s why my neighbors always see me tooling around town in my wheelchair. It’s why I actually had bald tires. It’s why I’ll spend half an hour to go half a mile for coffee with a friend. Freedom.

One of the worst things about not driving, particularly if you’re relying on public transportation, is the waiting. I’ve spent so many hours outside Publix with my groceries, I should be on the payroll. Official meeter and greeter. Twice I’ve given up. Publix kept my power chair till I could arrange to transport it later, while me and my soggy groceries bummed a ride. The problem, if JTA will allow me to say so (and if they won’t, oh well, here goes) is this ridiculous rule they have about spending a certain amount of time at your destination. (That and broken down vehicles and drivers with schedules so packed there’s no way they could stay on time.) I’m not allowed to take 30 or 45 minutes to do my shopping. I have to take an hour. With half-hour pick up windows, it’s not uncommon for me to be waiting outside Publix for two hours.

Now, I can wait an hour with no problem. An hour and a half gets interesting. I’m used to it. But two hours and I’m like the prisoner in solitary confinement who first tracks the passage of time with a rock and then finally goes ahead and loses it. Most people know me as a polite person who would never yell. Hopefully, those people never catch me after waiting two hours. When this happened recently, I could see the attention I was attracting out of the corner of my eye as I said loudly into the phone, “Another 40 minutes? I can’t do it! I just can’t wait anymore!” Then, after hanging up on the poor woman, I called my mom, practically in tears, to come pick me up. At first, I contemplated driving all the way home in my wheelchair. I decided against it. I’m adventurous, not death-defying.

The woman at JTA called later to tell me she’d found a solution. I could take the Community Shuttle for just 75 cents with no waiting. Since I had largely recovered at that point and all frozen goods were now safely stored in my freezer, I decided to give it a shot. I still had to get my power chair from Publix. Mom would take me there and the shuttle could bring me back.

It’s true there was no waiting. But when I saw that big bus barrel into the parking lot, I knew there was going to be trouble. This was no short bus. This was not your quadriplegic’s mini-bus. This was a full-on, mac daddy, watch-your-clearance, city bus. This was a regular bus with regular passengers, who were none to happy to be veering off route for the likes of me. I listened to them gripe and wonder where they were as we bounced down the streets of my neighborhood. I hadn’t even had the right fare (it was a dollar,) but the driver let me slide.

I read in the pamphlet later, that they will do “premium curb-to-curb service,” but it’s obviously not the norm. Those buses are ill-prepared to handle disabled passengers. The ramp was so steep the driver had to be there to make sure I didn’t fall out of my chair when I came off.

So my hunt for decent transportation continues. Dial A Ride isn’t bad, but they only service the beach and don’t run on weekends. So, if you see me in front of Publix, I’m sure I’ll smile and greet you pleasantly. Unless it’s the weekend and past the two hour mark. Then sorry, no promises.

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