My dog is getting old. Sometimes now the UPS man gets all the way up onto the porch, leaves a package, and is almost back out the front gate before Spotty, lying on her bed in the front window, notices him and is raised to her former glory of savage tooth and claw, a whirlwind of vicious barking and snarling – impotent behind the closed front door, but impressive nonetheless.
The UPS guy just laughs at her. But it is the hollow laugh of relief. He still remembers the old days.
Aside from the annoyance of perhaps keeping your packages from being delivered, it is very handy to have a dog. The gentle fragrance of her shit, for example, wafting through the warm summer air, deters the local high school kids from smoking weed out behind our house and we haven’t been visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses in almost a decade.
But a dog does not have to be useful to be loved.
The thing that Spotty gives us is not usefulness, but joy. Well, that and fleas. But mostly joy. That’s what pets do.
Did you see the Youtube video of Mark “Coonrippy” Brown, of Gallatin, Tennessee, dancing with his pet raccoon Gunshow to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”? Or taking a shower with his other raccoon Rebekah? Sure, you did. What kind of person doesn’t want to watch a grown man take a shower with a raccoon? No one I know. Coonrippy’s got almost two million hits on YouTube. That’s five times as many hits as the last State of the Union address.
In the video, Coonrippy is wearing overalls, a baseball cap, and a long white beard. The front porch where they are dancing has a propane tank hooked up to some sort of contraption that is not a still. Gunshow is wearing a luxuriant fur coat and about twenty extra pounds – which is a lot if you are only two feet tall. Like the rest of us, Gunshow is clearly entranced by Coonrippy’s smooth dance moves – at the end of the video he seems to be so attracted to Coonrippy’s swaying hips that he amorously chases Coonrippy right off the porch. The video ends while Coonrippy is in the process of leaping over the porch railing.
(I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t jealous. It’s been a long time since anyone chased me over a railing. Twenty extra pounds be damned – it’s nice to be wanted.)
The two million hits send a clear message: in this age of partisan politics, massive economic inequality, government surveillance, gun violence, police brutality, and on and on, there is a deep and abiding interest in expressions of affection. People want a vision of a better world. We want a world where a man and his raccoon can dance (or shower) together with joy and freedom. We want Love.
Naturally, we can’t have it.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency seized Rebekah, saying that it is illegal to keep a wild animal as a pet. She is being kept in captivity while Coonrippy has been trying everything he can think of to free her. He applied to get a permit to keep her, but the TWRA never even answered his letter. He tried petitioning Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R – of course. Bastard.), but even though the petition has over 60,000 signatures, the governor never even opened it. Meanwhile, Rebekah languishes in custody and Coonrippy’s heart is breaking.
Now Coonrippy has stepped up his game. He is entering the Tennessee gubernatorial race with a Republican primary challenge to Haslam. Coonrippy says that his campaign is “all about the raccoon,” which is just as good, if not better, than any other politician’s reason for entering a race (“All about the money” – Mitt Romney, “All about the Jeeeeezus” – Michelle Bachman, “All about the pizza” – Herman Cain, “All about the hot, sweaty, muscled men touching each other over and over again, rubbing and grinding against each other – what were we talking about?” – Rick Santorum, “The guns about values all Russia!” – Sarah Palin.)
As Coonrippy says in his first campaign video
“And just like the purity of this apple … well, I don’t know where I was going with that, but I guarantee there will be changes made. Changes you’ll like.” Compare this with any single sentence that ever came out of George Bush’s mouth and you can see that not only should Coonrippy be Governor of Tennessee, he should be President of the United States. Imagine how great it would be if we had politicians who campaigned on the platform of Love rather than on the platform of militarism, control, and global domination. A politician motivated by something other than greed or a lust for power.
It is early morning now and Spotty is gently snoring on the only really comfortable chair in the living room. It will probably be another peaceful day for her. Most days are. She might drag something from the backyard into the house and partially eat it, bark wildly at the garbage truck, pee in the herb garden, dance to Aretha Franklin – the usual. Here in the little imaginary mountain holler that we have created inside the boundaries of our own fence, life is joyous.
For the rest of the United States, I have only one recommendation:
Kathy Giuffre was born and raised in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas where her family goes back at least five generations. She is the author of An Afternoon in Summer: My Year in the South Seas and lives in Colorado with her husband and two sons. Her website is CanningForTheApocalypse.com and you can follow her on Twitter @KatherineGiuffr