Sunday, June 10, 2012

"A little madness in the Spring"

May is always an intense month for school folks, hence the lack of a blog post for such a long time.  My schedule has made it pretty tough on Cleo; she either spent a lot of time in our office without me or was banished from school altogether and spent her days hanging out at home with Daddy and the cats.  Could be worse!

Which reminds me that a couple weeks ago, Cleo and I were in the Head of School’s office talking something over when I suddenly noticed that her slip collar was on upside down.  “Did Daddy put your collar on backwards?” I asked her.  There was a brief silence, then the Head said, “If my wife ever referred to me as my dogs’ ‘Daddy,’ I’d have something to say about it.  I love them, but they are not blood relatives.”  Each to his own, I say.  Personally, I’m proud to be Cleo’s Mom.

Anyway, May kicked off with interviews for a newly vacant faculty position, then moved swiftly into AP exams.  I’m not a big fan of the College Board.  I think APs are a giant waste of time and parents’ money.  Obviously, I’m not alone in this, given that more and more colleges and universities are eliminating any kind of “advanced placement” in their courses based on students’ scores on the AP exams.  There is also a growing number of high schools that have cut way back on or entirely eliminated their AP course offerings.  Schools have just had it up to their mortar boards with teaching to the test, whatever that test might be.  The demands of the AP exams require teachers to move fast and stay shallow.  Think about US History, for example.  Courses still have to start at the inception of the United States, but every year they have to go further and further.  It’s not like the time to teach the material is getting any longer.  Since I was in school taking AP US History, we’ve had Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War, the first resignation of a President, the Iran Hostage Crisis—I haven’t even gotten out of the 70s yet—Reaganomics, the end of the Cold War, Iran-Contra…Oh, forget it.  You get the point. 

But I digress.  So, the last few weeks of school for Cleo were either feast or famine.  During the first week of May, we had multiple student meltdowns in the younger grades and a good deal of slacking off and playing with the puppy in the senior class.  That was the feast time.  Then APs and final exams hit.  That was the famine.  Poor Cleo didn’t even get to say goodbye to her best friend, Betsy, and believe me, I caught a lot of grief for that.  Not from Cleo.  She’s very forgiving.  But my name is probably still mud as far as Betsy is concerned.  I believe her exact words were, “How could you?!”  The sad truth is that sometimes you have to put the needs of the many above the needs of the one.  The reunion, come August, will be all the sweeter.

At least that’s the story I’m sticking to.

Even during the student meltdowns Cleo wasn’t always able to help me.  One involved a student’s unauthorized departure from campus and subsequent game of hide-and-seek in the wilderness area across the street from us.  Cleo hasn’t done any nose work yet, so she was no help as a tracker dog.  Still, the Sheriff we had to call in was mightily taken with her.  The aftermath of that little event ended up involving several other students, all of whom I had to talk to, draw out, cross-examine or otherwise elicit information from.  Not one of my happier times on campus. 

I still have to laugh when I recall my conversation with a sophomore girl who was probably most in-the-know about the runaway’s difficulties.  She thinks of herself as a master manipulator, and truth be told, she does have some finely honed skills in this area.  But much of the time she is so blatant in her manipulation that I end up feeling more compassion for her than irritation.  An elfin child, she will gaze at one, her big brown eyes welling with tears, and bite her lip just so before saying, “Those boys are so mean to me.”  I’ll admit, I was thoroughly taken in the first few times she performed her aria, that is until I learned just who had her teeth in whom.

The day I had to question her about her fleet-of-foot friend, a colleague joined me.  As we walked into my office, Cleo hopped down from the couch to greet us all.  The student pulled back with a stifled, “Oh!”  Now, she had been in my office with Cleo multiple times during her ninth grade year.  She had even visited with her while I was out of the office.  My colleague didn’t know this.  In a kindly tone, he said to her, “Don’t you like dogs?” 

“Oh, no,” she responded promptly.  “I like dogs.  I just don’t like Cleo.”

As Ace Ventura used to say, “Reeee-ally?”  Who knew?!

But Cleo couldn’t care less and neither could I.  The tough times for the puppy were when she couldn’t go to school with me at all.  All the love and compassion that fills her being, and only John and me to expend it on.  I don’t think we realized just how crisis-starved she was until we were watching The Colbert Report one night.  Cleo loves this show; it’s her favorite on television.  She will sleep through Jeopardy, The Daily Show, The Borgias and even Game of Thrones, but when Stephen Colbert comes on, she sits up and takes notice.  You might think it’s the flying eagle at the beginning or the cry of the falcon in the soundtrack (masquerading as the call of an American eagle—don’t be fooled), but she will even watch The Word, though I don’t think she gets all the jokes.  So this particular night Colbert was discussing gay marriage with the former star of Will and Grace.  Colbert was becoming very emotional, even breaking down and sobbing at one point.  As his hand went to his eyes and his voice broke, Cleo got up from her place beside John, quietly jumped off the couch and padded delicately to the television.  She stood on her hind legs and stared at the now extremely close up image of Stephen Colbert, sobbing, on the screen.  She reached up and put a paw on his “chest,” staring into his face.  Ears down, nose upturned, she stood on two legs and gazed at him comfortingly until he went to the commercial break.

I swear, I am not making this up.  Some dogs are trained for therapy.  Some are born to it.

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