Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Delia Ephron's Sister Mother Husband Dog

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?

48 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

When my sister and I were very small, we did not have pets. I don’t remember thinking much about it one way or the other. But when we were about twelve, we got a dog. And from then on, there was always a dog in the house. When we were married, my husband already had two dogs [golden retrievers] and our children grew up with those dogs watching out for them, tolerating baby hands pulling at their fur. Both girls now have dogs in their own homes. Dogs are the true purveyors of unconditional love . . . .

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Welcome Delia--we're so happy to have you here! And now I understand why Hallie is not a pet person...

In my family, my mother was pet crazy. And so all of my siblings have carried that forward. And you are completely, utterly right about stepparents needing unconditional love coming from somewhere. Tonka does an exquisite job of that for me!

Looking forward to reading this book very much!

Hallie Ephron said...

Even I would make an exception for Tonka.

Edith Maxwell said...

I love conversations between sisters (I have two), especially in this family!

I've never had a dog. We had a fish tank -neon tetras! - and two short-lived cats when I was a child in the San Gabriel Valley, but an an adult I'm firmly in the cat camp. Have had from one to four since I moved to the Boston area in 1982. But I have met a few dogs I liked, especially the ones that don't jump up on you and stick their nose into your crotch (I mean, I'm sorry - can't that be trained out of them?).

Ellen Kozak said...

I will look for Delia's book; from your description, it sounds like she writes like Nora did (I reviewed-- and loved-- "Crazy Salad" for the Milwaukee Journal when it came out).

As for pets, my mom's whole family is dog crazy, but my father's side of the family never understood why anyone would want any pet. Throughout our childhood, there was a succession of dogs (and the occasional cat, and waltzing mice, and a finch or two) who would arrive, stay briefly, and then leave when our paternal grandmother threatened never to visit us while the pets were there.

My sisters and I are all dog crazy (and two of us have kept cats as well, and I have a rescued bird). Our brother, on the other hand, detests pets-- but has been seen tolerating them when there's something in it for him. This is no surprise, since, as a child, he once threatened our grandmother that if she didn't give him a treat he was asking for, he would "like a doggie."

Unknown said...

My mom was the oldest of eight, six of them girls, and many of her siblings had dogs, so my parents didn't feel we needed to have one since we could go and visit others anytime we wanted.
In high school my parents finally conceded to having pets, so my brother had gerbils and I had two finches and a parakeet( not all at the same time). I think names are very important. My birds and all stuffed animals had book or movie character names. My parakeet was Algernon because I fell in love with Flowers For Algernon and the finches were always squabbling,so they were Rhett and Scarlett.
I still wish for a fluffy white dog.
A Great Day to All!
Jackie Jones

Deb Romano said...

I happen to be reading that book right now, and LOVING it!

When I was growing up my grandparents had a dog, Flippy, that my siblings and cousins and I thought of as an uncle or older cousin! He was some sort of mix of collie and perhaps sheltie; we never knew for certain.He trotted along after us around the yard or in the house, he patiently allowed kids to ride him like a pony, he slept on the floor with us, he ate the scraps we gave him from the table, and of course, he gave all of us unconditional love. When I was a little older, around 8 or 9, I found out he was originally OUR dog but when I was a toddler my family moved to an apartment where pets were not allowed. My siblings and I always wanted a dog of our own, especially after Flippy died of old age. Eventually, we moved into a two family house owned by dog lovers and they had no problem with us getting a dog. We soon became "owned" by Oliver, who adored each member of the family, especially our dad, who was The King/God in Oliver's opinion. He was half dachshund and half cocker spaniel, and looked like a very, VERY large dachshund, perhaps a survivor of a nuclear accident. You'd never know he'd ever even been in the same ROOM with a cocker spaniel.Many of our friends and relatives thought of him as a terrorist - and I still refuse to accept that description! He just knew what he wanted! We were all grown by the time he died. Two weeks after my dad's sudden death, Oliver had a stroke, and was never really the same again. I think he missed my dad terribly. He died two years later.Mom then got a sweet dog named Sadie, and they grew old together. Sadie treated all the grandchildren as her own babies, and believed it was her privilege to love them to pieces!

I've never had a dog of my own and would love one, or two, or half a dozen - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to stop. My difficulty in walking around in snow and ice prevents me from getting one, but everybody I know who has a dog knows that their dog has a good friend in Deb!

Hallie Ephron said...

Deb, love your story of Flippy and Oliver and Sadie.

This is reminding me of when my family rented a summer beach house and the owners left the dog, Puppy, for us to take care of. I know I never walked him. I don't think anyone did. It upsets me now to think about this.

Kaye Barley said...


We have a dog. A corgi named Harley. Harley Doodle Barley, he was born on the 4th of July. Harley rules this house.

But we also love cats and have had a succession of both. Often dogs and cats at the same time.

But Harley says he wants nothing to do with cats, so . . . .

We had a dachshund when I was growing up. I left for college and the dachshund stayed at home with my parents, of course. And took over my bedroom. And would growl at me when I tried to get into my/his bed. That's the only dog I've never been overly fond of.

Hallie Ephron said...

Jackie Jones: Oh, Flowers for Algernon! Haven't thought of that in ages. Must go back and reread. And it was made into the movie Charly.

Unknown said...

Yes, Hallie! I saw the movie shortly after we read the book in English class. I cried through the movie as much as I did reading the book. I do think it's time for a reread( if I only knew were that dog-eared copy was...)
I do want to say how much I loved Delia's book. She already knows this of course, but for those who have not read it,you must make it your weekend read!

Jackie Jones (:

Ramona said...

Growing up, we had a few dogs. We lived in the country, near a busy road, no fence. The dogs didn't end well, let's just say.

As an adult, I've had one dog, Marcie. She was perfect. Now she's gone and I can never get another dog, because my first was perfect. It's like marriage. If you marry the perfect man the first time around, #2 is screwed from the start, so don't get another husband. It's not fair to him.

Anyway. I do love dogs. I'm just not ready to marry another one.

Fun post! Looking forward to reading the book.

Denise Ann said...

This week we have our daughter's dog -- Daisy, a "rescue" lab. Having her once in a while is fine, but I am happier without a pet in the house.

I grew up with dogs: Miss Boo was a cocker spaniel, Mahogany of Killarney was an Irish Setter, and Flasher was a Beagle. My mother was a great trainer of dogs, and I like a well-behaved pet.

Raising our kids, we had Rascal (a golden/black lab mix) who was delightful and Lucy (an English Springer Spaniel from the pound who was a challenge).

As a kid, I had a cow (Patroon Nil Knight). (I won her.)

Hallie Ephron said...

Ramona, your comment is making me sad. Because I don't it's ever too late to fall in love again.

Hallie Ephron said...

A COW! Denise! You win!! Not sure what but you definitely win. Trumps pot bellied pig which I am happy to say we did not get. Fortunately when our daughter hit her teen years her lust turned from said PBP to a red Saab.

Ramona said...

Sorry, Hallie. After I posted, I realized it was a downer comment.

Who knows, the day may come....

Tammy said...

Hello everyone, and hey to Delia (we met at the Orange County Festival of Women Authors a couple years ago). I'm going right out to order this book!

Growing up I had a dog and a horse. No further desire for a horse (talk about work), though I loved it at the time, and it was a good outlet for teenage angst (not that it all got channeled there, just some). I loved my dog to death (a cockapoo named Mitsy) and would be surrounded by them now if only my husband wasn't allergic to anything with fur. But like some women coo over any baby they see? I'm like that over dogs. I get my fix somehow.

Deb said...

When I was growing up, my mother didn't want dogs, and she care for cats AT ALL. No idea why. When I was nine they finally gave into my whining and took in poodle from some elderly relatives that were moving to Mexico. Her name was Jolie, and I tried to love her, I really did. But she was never meant to be a child's dog, and she never stopped grieving for her former family, even into very old age.

I did, in my late teens, talk my mother into letting me get a cat AND a Great Dane, at the same time. The Great Dane was a sweet disaster who refused to be house-trained and ate the furniture and the windowsills in our house. She eventually went to family with a big yard and lot of small kids. The cat was a terror (even the dog was afraid of her) but I adored her and only gave her up when I moved to England some eight years later.

Since then, my life has been filled with cats and dogs, some we chose, some who chose us. And I can't imagine life without either.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Hi Deb--waving madly! it was so great to meet you in person last night!!

Ramona, not to worry. I think that's a natural stage--certainly with pets--feeling you'll never, ever find another animal you'd love as well. But then the time usually comes where you can't bear one more dogless/catless day:). Or so it goes in my family anyway.

Deb said...

I was so busy with the dog and cat thing that I forgot to say that I adore Delia's book and am buying it right now!!!!

And I loved Flowers for Algernon... Wonder whatever happened to my battered copy. Probably the non-acid-free pages have crumbled to dust. Am going to see if it's an e-book now.

Pat D said...

We've always had dogs. When I was 5 we got a dachshund for Christmas.
The past few years we've adopted rescue dogs.Bless their hearts! They're already housebroken and have manners. Our current child is Boo, short for Boolie--the wonderful son in Driving Miss Daisy. Our 35 year old human son loves to tease the daylights out of him. And Boo is a babe magnet. We walk him to dog friendly places, sit outside and drink coffee or wine and collect the compliments.

Rhys Bowen said...

Hi Delia--welcome to JRW. I'm looking forward to reading the book.
I grew up with dogs, big English country house, dogs retrieving neighbors' chickens in mouth etc.

But we only had one dog, total disaster--couldn't be housebroken and ran away all the time. But I love being nana to my girls' dogs.

Pat D said...

Unusual pets too? Let's see. . .way back when we did have a couple of baby horny toads. We'd catch ants for them to eat. We had a baby softshell turtle, and later box turtles that wandered in. Mom grew up in the country and had all kinds of pets. One of her dogs was Tippecanoe; he could climb trees. She had a baby skunk for a while that her brother would send into the house when there was company. Also a raven she tamed. And cats.

Lisa Alber said...

Hi Delia!

Growing up, we had our beloved Penny, an Airdale mix. She was a larger version of Sandy, Annie's dog in the musical. It's funny how we got her too. She was lonely in her outdoor pen all day while her mistress was at work, so she found a way to escape. Somehow I, or one of my sisters, befriended her and she followed us home. Then she'd make her way back home. But then, it happened again. And again. She'd always find us at school and walk home with us. My mom got in touch with the owner to let her know what was going on. The owner loved Penny, and she loved her so much that she decided to give her to us so Penny wouldn't be lonely. Penny was the best dog, just the sweetest.

My current dog, Luna, is a King Charles spaniel/pekingnese mix. She's adorable. A rescue with one eye. My cat Trio is the dude. He's the best too. They're so funny together. It took a few years because Luna is head shy (raccoon got her eye when she was a stray), but Luna now lets Trio head-butt her. :-)

Hallie Ephron said...

Pat D -- love the horny toads and the ants. A skunk? Really?? I hope it was de-scented. A raven AND a cat? Sounds like something out of Bell Book and Candle.

Hallie Ephron said...

Lisa Alber, love the way Penny adopted YOU. Same way Lucy got her cat Yoda.

Hallie Ephron said...

Debs, LAUGHING at your "Great Dane was a sweet disaster who refused to be house-trained and ate the furniture and the windowsills in our house." Sweet Disaster. Would make a great title.

Deb Romano said...

Hi back to you, Lucy/Roberta!
It was a real delight to meet you! I feel a bit sad knowing that I've already read (except for Topped Chef, which I was happy to purchase last night) all your books. I was hoping I'd missed something somewhere!At least I know there are more coming up in the future.

To all: Our JRW Roberta/Lucy gave a fascinating talk last night, and I was excited to be in the audience. I didn't know anyone there. Later, I walked out to the parking lot with two other women from the audience. Roberta is a "new" author to them and they loved her talk, and were excited about their purchases last night.

More pets: We had three parakeets when I was growing up, one after another. They all seemed to have health problems. There were turtles from time to time. And then there was my brother's turtle, Yertle, a real "people" turtle. I still can't talk about how poor Yertle met his end. It was tragic. My little brother sobbed and sobbed. I tried to comfort him but ended up sobbing, too.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

We had pets! Three Irish Setters, cleverly named "Roderick St.John Erin Sean", "Penelope Brown of Jumpers Woods," and "Rusty."

We had cats: F.Scott and Zelda, and then Rosemary, and Rosemary had kittens, and they were...Rosemary's, yup. Rosemary's babies.

We had gerbils,Chet and David. Until Rosemary ate them.

And we had a mynah bird named Yurza. (Yurza Mynah.) It learned to imitate the telephone, and drove everyone nuts.

Jonathan and I have an invisible dog. Wheatie, an invisible Wheaton terrier. VERY easy to care for, highly recommended.

Welcome darling Delia!

Unknown said...

So true. Having a dog turned me into a nut. I had a pet psychic over, which I ended up putting in the book since it was definitely amazing.

Unknown said...

My comment got posted as unknown. This is Delia
To Joan. Yes true, unconditional love. And as I said I actually had a pet psychic over. Wrote about it in the dog chapter.
Lucy: None of my sisters are pet people. Hallie, you should get a dog.

Hallie Ephron said...

Those last two comments are DELIA! Blogger is misbehaving...

NO DOGS FOR ME! Because our mother isn't around to walk and feed and.... I'd have cats but I'm allergic to them.

Hallie Ephron said...

Hank: No wonder you had pets. You had a pony.

Libby Dodd said...

I realized recently that all that dog sniffing is their version of FaceBook! My husband has named it "ButtBook"

Unknown said...

Am having trouble getting things to post. Tammy I completely remember you. We sat at the same table. Jackie, Hi. These are all amazing. Deb, thank you so much. Glad you are loving the book. I always wish I could meet these dogs. Edith, my dog never sniffs inappropriately. Kate, re the daschhund (sp?)I guess all dogs are not created equal.
Ramona, that makes me sad. I write about that too, about losing a dog -- which brings me again to the pet psychic.
Delia

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Thanks again Deb for the very sweet comments. I loved having someone I "know" in the audience.

Delia--the pet psychic. Must put that in the next KW book!!!

Unknown said...

More from Delia...
Hank, hi, I am astonished at your number and variety of pets. Denise you do take the cake with the cow.
Hallie, JRW is fantastic. xoxoxo

Deb said...

Hallie, maybe "sweet" was the wrong descriptive. I'm surprised cleaning up piles of Great Dane poop in the house didn't put me off dogs for good:-) I still love the GDs, though. Gorgeous dogs.

Hank, I love your doggie names!!! You obviously got a little less inventive as you went along...

Delia, got the book. Can't wait to read about the pet psychic!

Delia Ephron said...

Deb,Thank you. Hope you like it.

Unknown said...

Hank, love all those names! My grandparents had an Irish Setter,too, named Corky. The other 2 dogs were Bruno and Caligula. Caligula snarled at everyone.
My mom grew up with cats, a pony and a donkey named Blanket.

Vickie Radford said...

Always had dogs as a kid. . .my mom told me I was allergic to cats. Oddly as an adult I also had cats and it was never a problem. I think she just didn't want cats in the mix too. I did have a canary and two ducks(Finney and Cindor), and a white mouse (Skippy).
She also would only let me have small dogs and I was in love with large dogs. So again as an adult I had many, many big dogs. A giant schnauzer who was a show dog, Ch. BJ's Heavy On The Sir, called Sir. Plus over the years a husky, a rottie, a German shepherd, a greyhound mix, a rough coated collie, the list goes on.
I never have had less than four dogs at a time. I currently have a Great Pyrenees, a Saint Bernard, a standard poodle (my second, everyone should have dogs who are smarter than the owner) and two more who are not giants !!
I can't imagine ever being without a dog (or two) in my life.

Reine said...

I need this book right now, Delia. I am the Trixie of my family, the one everyone points to when someone is thinking about having a child, and says be careful. You never know what will come out. But I have Power Paws Kendall. They are stuck with each other.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Vicki, four dogs at a time--that's a lot of dogs! I think my family's record was 2 German shepherds, 2 cats, 2 guinea pigs, and a mouse.

We never did have a handle on training the dogs--in fact my father and I were in court on several occasions when Wolfie grabbed the neighbors dog by the nape and shook it. (the little thing was annoying him...)

I'm trying to picture the satisfaction of Hank's imaginary dog, but not there yet...

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Well, Rusty was first. So we got MORE inventive.

Yes, I had a pony, Cadet Which meant I also had to clean out stalls before I went to school each morning.

Lucy, Jonathan and I will bring Wheatie to your house--wait, we already HAVE! xoxo

Deb Romano said...

Vickie,

FOUR dogs! I am SO jealous!!!

Lisa Mortimer said...

We had crazy, lazy Daisy, an un-groomed miniature poodle who resembled a demented dust mop. Best dog ever for our neurotic family.
Delia, I must thank you for How to Die of Embarrassment! My dad gave it to me when it was first published & it totally validated my teenage experience by making me laugh with recognition. I have never forgotten it, & will share it with my teen daughter.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, this is a priceless interview! So great to see you sisters interact. Must've been a very special relationship, and Delia, I smiled and about cried when I read you liked having a dog because you were a stepparent and needed someone in the house who loved you :(

Also, as a mystery writer, I'm worried about the ducks in the wading pool that disappeared, and then the dog that didn't last a week? There's a mystery there, I think.

The book sounds like it's full of smiles and wisdom. Congratulations.

Antor Biswas said...

Ingredients are so very important to look at when picking out a dog food. The number one ingredient needs to be a protein. Avoid foods with by-products, artificial colors, and no-name meats. If a food says meat instead of chicken, for example, that meat could be absolutely anything. You really need to know what you are feeding your kids.