How could you not be smitten with a man with the mug of a pug, the work ethic of a sled dog; the insatiable curiosity of a boxer; and the droopy demeanor of a basset hound?
If you were to mix Yogi Bear with Rocky Balboa, then southern fry them, you’d have David Perlmutt, in whose house Ace and I spent the last three days. He’s one of those guys who underwhelms you (to borrow a friend’s description) on first impression. (I, too, am a member of that club.) He’s very low key, quite soft spoken, and doesn’t feel the need to publicly exhibit vast amounts of enthusiasm, which is not to say he doesn’t have it. It’s in there, percolating. But being perky is not his thing. He’s not exactly Mr. Bubbly.
In that way, and a few others, we are peas in a pod. We both graduated, the same year, from the University of North Carolina’s journalism school – though we don’t think we knew each other back then. We both worked at the Charlotte Observer, though in my case just for a year. He’s been there nearly 30.
We’re both divorced (though in my case twice) and we both have only children headed off to college this month.
And we’re both plum dog crazy.
(And no, I’m not proposing. He has already turned me down.)
But he did invite Ace and me to be guests in his lovely home among towering trees in a quiet Charlotte neighborhood that’s filled with dogs. His two, Caki and Clancy, were at the home of his ex (with whom he shares custody of the canines) so I didn’t get a chance to meet them.
But I did get a chance to meet his neighbor’s dog, a golden retriever mix named Winnie, who consented to show me her trademark trick, opening, then closing, the Archer family’s front door.
She performed it flawlessly three times in a row, because that’s how many tries it took for me to get a decent photo. (Perhaps I should train Ace to take pictures and let him handle the photography from now on.)
Winnie, who’s three-years-old, is assisted in the task by a rubber band, wrapped around the door knob (one of those regular round door knobs), which allows her front paws to get some traction, and twist the knob. Then she pushes the door open, walks inside, turns around, closes it with a flick of her front paws and beams proudly.
“She picked it up in no time,” said Ellen Archer, who, with the aid of treats, taught Winnie the trick.
My visit to Charlotte — on top of checking out The Dog Bar, spending some time with cousin Laura and reconnecting with Perlmutt — also gave me a chance to look up another old friend, Ray Owens.
He’s one of my ex-college roommates who, despite being in near constant prank mode — then and now — somehow managed to become a successful attorney.
As it turns out, he has lost neither his hair, his sense of humor, nor his detailed memories of college days, including the time, driving home from a Deep Purple/Uriah Heap/Black Sabbath concert in Fayetteville, we hit a furious rainstorm. My yellow Firebird — though, I would argue still, a totally hot car — had broken windshield wipers, so we resolved the matter by tying shoestrings to each wiper and, from inside the car, pulling the wipers back and forth manually the whole way home.
Not a bad trick, either. I think we rewarded ourselves from the sack of treats we carried with us for the trip — Fritos and bean dip, as I recall.
You might imagine that we’ve grown up since then — that we’ve all become respectable and responsible adults as we pass through middle age and beyond; that we’ ve realized that life is serious business and, once your hair is gone or going grey, it’s time to close the door on Black Sabbath, childish pranks, dopey behavior, running in circles and needless frivolity.
But if we’ve learned anything from or dogs, it’s this: Naaaah.