The Latest Lost in Suburbia column: Hair of the Dog that Smelled Bad


“Are you free for coffee tomorrow?” I asked a friend over the phone.

“No, sorry,” she replied.  “I have to take Tyra for a wash, cut, and blowout.”

If I hadn’t known this person very well, I would have assumed she was talking about her daughter or mother.

But she was not.

She was talking about her dog.

I had forgotten that Tyra had a standing appointment at the poodle parlor every four weeks to get groomed.  She had her own stylist who understood all the nuances of Tyra’s coat, which, I was informed, was made of hair, not fur, and therefore required a specialized level of dog beautification.  I found this exceptionally amusing since I don’t even have a standing appointment at the salon for myself, much less my dog.

Typically, I don’t even realize my dog needs to be groomed until he starts to smell so bad we wonder if there is something rotting in the fridge, and even then, I’ll just spray him with air freshener for a couple of days until we can’t stand it anymore.

My thought is, if wolves don’t take bubble baths in the wild, why should my dog?

Of course, this philosophy only lasts as long as it takes for the smell of my dog to get so strong it starts to cause the paint to peel from the walls.  And while this isn’t a problem for the dog, it is for me, our family, and our walls.  My dog definitely prefers smelling like garbage than lavender.   Pretty much the minute he comes home from the groomers, he will dash outside to find the nastiest pile of muck to roll in to obliterate the smell of perfumed pooch.  And if by luck he happens to find something dead outside to rub against, he will be in stinky dog heaven.

Tyra, the well-primped poodle, is apparently no different.  Although she puts up with her once monthly grooming, as soon as she gets home she will do her best to undo the work of her style team and return herself to a more natural doggie state.   While she may play the part of a pampered pooch, at heart she is a dog of the earth, and routinely has the earth in her coat to prove it.

Meanwhile, back at Smelly Dog Central, my dog Monty was clearly beginning to ripen and I realized the time had come to de-stinkify him before the Board of Health condemned his dog bed, and quite possibly, our house.

Since Tyra’s owner seemed so happy with the level of service she was getting from her doggie salon, I decided to try them out and let them work their magic on Monty.

However as soon as we arrived, I realized that the place might not be a good fit for my dog.

“Would you like a rose, eucalyptus, or lemon-scented spa bath for Monty?” they inquired as I signed Monty in.

I glanced down at my dog. He had his head between his legs and was busy giving himself a bath where the sun don’t shine.

I rolled my eyes.

“Actually…” I wondered.  “Do you have anything that smells like dirt?”

©2014, Beckerman. All rights reserved.

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Filed under It's a Dog's Life

For the Love of Erma

ermaMy mother was always a big Erma Bombeck fan. 

She had all of Erma’s books and would make sure to tune in anytime Erma appeared on TV.  I remember watching Erma one time with my mother and, after the segment, I turned to my mother and said, “She seems like a really nice lady.”  My mother agreed. 

The niceness that Erma exuded also permeated her columns.  You could tell from her essays that she was just a really good person and someone you would want to have as a friend.

It is this same air of niceness that seems to envelope the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.  In a sometimes brutally competitive world, I was somewhat surprised to find so many supportive, helpful, and encouraging colleagues at the conference.  In the beginning, as the new kid on the block, I was grateful for that support and encouragement. Now as the more seasoned columnist, I am just as grateful to return to the conference to give back to other writers who are just starting out.

What I realized in my time with the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, is that we writers who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Erma do not just seek to follow Erma creatively. We also want, I think, to keep the spirit of her “niceness” alive.

It was in that spirit, upon hearing that I’d won the Global Humor category in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition three days before it was publicly announced, that I asked to donate the majority of my winnings back to the Workshop.  The Workshop uses every dime that it brings in to create the unique, invaluable, and utterly life changing conference that so many humor writers, myself included, have had the good fortune to attend and grow from.  I was thrilled to have the unexpected opportunity to help them continue their mission.  Could I have used the money myself?  Of course. Who couldn’t?  I’ve got a kid in college and another one on the way.  But I felt it was something I wanted to do.

With friends at The Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop in 2012

With friends at The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in 2012

As the top winner, I was also the recipient of a free registration for the conference.  Since, as a speaker, I was already comped my conference registration, I told the conference and contest organizers that I would like to donate my free registration to someone who had not been able to get into the conference.  We all felt that it should go to the two women who were the honorable mentions in my category.

Now, I’m not mentioning this to get kudos or claps on the back.  I actually would have preferred not to mention it at all but I have heard whisperings that I should not have been allowed to enter the contest… did not deserve to win… because I am a “professional,” or a “speaker.”  The truth is, I followed the rules, like everyone else, crafted my essay the best I could, like everyone else, and paid my entry fee, like everyone else.  As for the facts that I already had a free registration or didn’t need the money, that is irrelevant. I like to think that everyone who entered the contest, and everyone who attends the conference would have done the same if circumstances allowed, without being asked… whether they were a professional writer or a novice…  a speaker or an attendee… a syndicated columnist or a five-time Erma Bombeck Writing Competition loser (like me), because we all have a little bit of Erma in us, and if Erma had won, she would do the same thing.

I am honestly humbled to have won, and delighted to have the opportunity to share my good fortune with other writers.  I look forward to meeting all of you at the conference so we can support our mutual writing  dreams!



Filed under Uncategorized