HALLIE EPHRON: My sister Delia Ephron has just come out with a fabulous book of personal essays, Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.) I devoured it from cover to cover because it is whip smart, poignant, achingly sad, ironic, outrageous, and hilarious -- and because Delia writes in a voice that just makes you want to hang out with her on the pages.
I was especially eager to see what Delia had to say about dogs because because we didn't grow up with them.
No pets at all, unless you count the ducklings that one of us won at a carnival at El Rodeo elementary school and that we kept in the garage. It's clear from this picture that I nearly strangled mine, loving it to death. As Delia remembers, "They lived in the garage and swam in a small inflatable kiddie pool until they disappeared one night." It's true, we did not mourn.
The reason we couldn't get a dog, our mother used to explain whenever the subject came up, was because of Trixie. If we got a dog, the same thing would happen that happened with Trixie. None of us would take care of her, and my mother would end up having to feed it and walk it and all the rest.
So I read Delia's essay on "Dogs" looking for Trixie. But Trixie wasn't there. So now I get to ask: Was there a Trixie or was it just a myth Mom made up to justifying not getting a dog?
DELIA EPHRON: First of all, thank you for that lovely introduction. I am sending mountains of love through the web to you.
As for Trixie, my memory is we had her for a week. She was sort of a long legged, short-haired, medium-sized dog, black and white, and I remember she showed up with no notice, no preparation, no preamble, and then a week later she was gone. And Mom insisted that she was the only one who took care of it. It is strange to me because I love dogs so much that this dog came and went almost like a phantom. and made no impression. Dogs are remarkable. How is that possible?
HALLIE: Delia, when you got a dog, I was flabbergasted. And then you named them like Spanish aristocrats. Honey Pansy Cornflower Bernice de Mambo Kass. (Okay, I added the "de.")
So what's the deal with the names, and how'd you come up with them?
DELIA: I was a stepparent and every stepparent should have a dog because it's very important to have someone in the house who loves you.
Daisy, my first, had thirteen names. I don't know why -- I think it began when I realized that when I had lunch I could have two Cokes if I wanted. I mean, I was an adult, and I was paying, so if I wanted two Cokes, why not, and that led to giving Daisy 13 names, and Honey, six.
As for how I came up with them ... after I tell you, I'm sure you will wish I hadn't, but here goes. Jerry (my husband) named her Honey because she was the sweetest puppy, Pansy is my favorite flower, we passed a field of cornflowers when driving her home, Bernice is my husband's aunt. All our dogs are named after one of Jerry's aunts. Mambo is a great word and a great dance, and Kass is Jerry's last name.
HALLIE: I discovered reading the book that Honey eats only kangaroo meat. How can that be?
DELIA: She was chewing her paw and the doggie dermatologist said she was allergic to her food so she had to eat Kangaroo. So we fed her kangaroo -- it comes in a bag just like all other dog food -- and she stopped chewing her paw for a while, but she's back at it.
I think she's nervous about the book being published. Being in it and all. She's a very private dog.
HALLIE: Honey was born in California, as we all were, but does she love New York City now as much as you do?
DELIA: Honey was born in Rhode Island. She does love NYC as much as I do. She has dog friends in the building and on the street. And the streets are sniffing paradise. Plus, all the pizza crusts to scarf. She gets to run up and down the lobby at 2 am. even though the building doesn't permit it.
HALLIE: There's another essay in the collection in which you talk about eating your way through the bakeries in Lower Manhattan. Does Honey come along, and are there bakeries there as there are here with treats for dogs.
DELIA: Dogs aren't allowed in bakeries, but many bakeries have benches in front so you can tie your dog's leash to a bench leg and keep watch out the window to make sure your dog isn't dognapped while you are buying a croissant. Honey knows all the places in the neighborhood where she gets treats. She's always trying to make a right turn into Whitney Chemists, our local drugstore, because Christine, behind the counter, gives out treats.
HALLIE: Okay, Reds... Did you grow up with dogs, always want one... or were you more the type to lust after a pony or (as my younger daughter did) a pot bellied pig?