It has been something of a trying week. Among other upheavals on the home front, my trusty MacBook Pro crashed on Sunday in mid blog. It had mini-crashed the week before, but an emergency visit to the Genius Bar at our local Apple Store resurrected it. A simple power down, battery removal and button push to reset the startup chip got everything working again. At the time, I was embarrassed that a thirty second fix (literally) was all that it took to right the glitch that had sent me scurrying for help. When, a week to the day later, the same fix failed to right what seemed to be the exact same wrong, I was a bit frustrated. So I tried the technique five more times. Hey, maybe I was doing something wrong in this three step procedure. Nada. Nothing but a blank screen and the quiet moan of the CD drive searching in vain for its hard drive companion. This time, the Genius Bar couldn’t help me; the MacBook had to be sent away for diagnosis and repair. “It’ll be back to you in five to seven days,” the Genius told me.
Luckily, they managed to turn it around in three days, which is pretty darned impressive. But that meant four work days (Monday through Thursday) of reading student essays and addressing the hundred plus emails that come in every day (I’m not exaggerating) on the relatively small screen of my iPad. I’m not saying that I have to answer a hundred emails every day. Some just go straight into the trash. I only have to write back to half of them—parents, students, colleagues, individuals outside the school asking questions. I’ve gotten much better at typing on the iPad keyboard.
Let me just take a moment to add, Thanks, Sweetheart, for getting me that iPad for my birthday; I would have been sunk without it.
Coincidentally, the faculty got together Wednesday afternoon to discuss ongoing technology-related questions. This week’s agenda: What treasured aspects of our school can never go digital? The digital realm permeates the school because it permeates the lives of our students. It permeates the world. But our school thrives on interpersonal connection and we value the analog world as much as the digital one. As we brainstormed which analog activities we would go to battle to preserve, I was so happy to see that one of my colleagues had written down “Cleo time.” In less than a year, the fuzzball has become an essential part of our school.
I have been allowing Cleo a slightly higher profile as she matures. I have begun taking her to the all-school meetings which we hold three times a week or so. These are twenty-minute, student led forums for the communication of information. They can be goofy, celebratory, somber, serious, hilarious. There is always applause, sometimes polite, sometimes riotous. As the school community is filing in, Cleo mostly just wants everyone to notice her. Once the meeting is underway, she would prefer to be outside chasing rabbits and quail. She is getting used to the clapping and generally does nothing more than prick up her ears and look around. Today’s big activity was a different story, however.
Cleo and I were in our office together when the fire alarm first went off. I had zipped back there from a meeting in order to reassure her and to shepherd her through the first drill of the year for which she was present. This was also the first time I was allowing her to participate in the drill. The moment the buzzing began, Cleo started barking. When she saw students walking purposefully past our door, she barked more insistently. Leashed and out in the Quad where students were streaming from buildings, heading up to the near athletic field, she continued barking and added bouncing and spinning around in circles to the act. Nothing I said or did was helping. I picked her up and she temporarily settled down, though she perched alertly in my arms.
We made it up to the field and I set her down onto the grass. She was much calmer, no longer barking or spinning, just fascinated by all the activity. Just as I was getting ready to help the safety director, a reddish-brown and white blur shot across the edge of the field. It was Sidney, the Australian Shepherd who sometimes comes to school with our academic dean. She flew by me and plowed right into Cleo, bowling her over. Cleo, on her leash, couldn’t get away from the juggernaut. She sprang up and turned to face off with the much larger dog. When both of these girls are off leash, they have a ball together, but Cleo never enjoys interacting with dogs when she is leashed. I think she feels it’s bad manners. After all, when we’re in training class, the dogs may look at each other, but may not touch or play when they are on leash.
As Sidney pawed and stomped on her, Cleo darted between my legs. The Aussie tried to follow. I was wearing an ankle length skirt, so she didn’t get very far and had to retreat. She lunged around one side of me just as Cleo dashed in the opposite direction, wrapping the leash around my leg. I made a grab for Sidney’s collar and missed. She did a victory lap around the bleachers. Cleo tried to sprint after her, leaving me straddling the leash with one arm between my legs and no dignity to speak of. By now, the students were lined up by grades facing the faculty. They had nothing to do but be counted and watch the fracas. They were laughing loudly and cheering the dogs on: “Go, Cleo!” The academic dean finally ran up to me, “I’m so sorry! I was trying to clip Sidney to the bleachers and I unclipped her harness by mistake!” Okay, I’m not entirely sure how that happens, but whatever.
He corralled Sidney and hauled her ignominiously from the fray. I untangled myself from Cleo and her leash and went to stand in line to be counted. Cleo plopped down happily at my feet, tongue lolling, and gazed at the students. On the serious side, if the Fire Marshal had been there, the whole event wouldn’t have been amusing at all. As it was, I was testy. Cleo is the school’s therapy-dog-in-training; she has the right to be there. But I’ve also never been patient with bullying in any form, maybe especially with my gentle little lamb.
We got the all clear, and students filed off the field. Cleo, Sidney, my colleague and I hung back. When most of them were gone, we unleashed the puppies who instantly started chasing each other around the field in the highest of spirits, happy and playful. Sidney is not the runner Cleo is; Cleo had to slow down to let her catch up. We threw balls for them. They competed to see who could pee in the most spots (Sidney won this event, hands down). I calmed down and got over being testy. Mistakes happen, and the simple truth is that he loves his dog as much as I love Cleo. Though it was only a drill, it’s impossible to imagine leaving either of our girls in harm’s way.
We stood watching them romp on the grass for quite a while. Then my colleague turned to me and said, “They’re just a joy bomb, aren’t they?”
They are the best of the analog world.