The Truth about the Birds and the Dogs

I took Cosmo, the ancient Shih-Tzu, outside this morning to do some things. That’s a nice way of saying he needed to do some things. At six o’clock in the morning, it’s still dark, but there’s a little gray light on the horizon. People were already up and moving around, here, in Hermitage, TN, and the birds were sure singing. We had all kinds of birds in the Panhandle of Texas: robins, doves (lots of doves, or are they pigeons?), all the mainline colors: blue, red, and black. We had a lot of little brown ones with yellow breasts. Canadian geese wintered with us; that was cool. But I missed the songbirds. When I was a girl in Dickson, especially in the springtime, those freaking songbirds would wake me up before five thirty in the morning, singing their little hearts out. When spring was good and coming, we slept with our windows cracked open when the nights were still chilly, but not freezing, and those little chirpies would tune up while it was still dark, attracting mates, fluffing their nests, laying eggs, and singing about it. That’s what little birds do. When you’re busy being a bird, you’ve got a song about birding, and your bird DNA must proclaim your bird-ness.

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I read a story, last week, about the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, a German shepherd named Rumor, who ran away with Best in Show. One look at the five-year-old female could be enough to know why. Her intelligent face was full of life and character. Watching her interact with her handler, pacing around the ring, and engaging the ecstatic crowd was mesmerizing. I like watching dog shows because the dogs are so proud to be dogs. They love the attention and the people. They’re happy and it shows when they take their turns around the floor, and stand at attention for the judges to “paw” over their indiscriminate parts. The judges look at performance, but they concentrate on the characteristics of the breed. Is this dog the best representation of its breed? Of all the terriers, of all the standard poodles, of all the German shepherds, is this one closest to what makes that breed specific, like no other? The dogs seem to know who they are, and they strive to be everything that they were born to be. You may not be crazy about pugs, but the pug doesn’t care. He’s the best pug, and he knows it.

Life has been good, and life has been bad, but one thing is for sure: life has never been, and will never be, easy or fair. More important than learning who I am has been learning who I am not and being okay with that. When I was twenty years old, I tried to lose my southern accent because I thought it made other people think I was stupid. But I don’t care what people think of me, much, anymore. You may not be crazy about the Tennessee accent, but the Tennessee accent doesn’t care. She’s the best Tennessee accent, and she knows it. I’m not gonna worry about who I ain’t. I’m gonna build my nest and sing my song, and proclaim my Connie-ness. If you don’t want to hear it, that’s alright. Just shut your window, and go back to sleep.

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