It’s been a busy few weeks—or rather few months. Sister’s and families from Israel and Canada visiting, the adoption of Ginger (AKA Vi), two students who have defended their dissertations and graduated over the past 4 weeks, and a ****load of other work-related issues.

nieces + Ginger
Ginger posing with my Canadian nieces, Teighan (left) and Tori

But the summer seems to be dominated by the arrival of Ginger the Vizsla, our very own affectionate Velcro, who sticks to me like “Super-Glue.” As an aside, when traveling in Edinburgh so 18 or 19 years ago, my spouse’s shoe became separated from her sole—not a good thing on a hiking trip. Being cheapo graduate students, we made the mistake of asking a shop keeper if he had any “Crazy-Glue.” He looked at us as though we were crazy—perhaps from sniffing the stuff—and kept shaking his head at these morons who showed up in his shop. “Crazy-Glue,” he said in that not-so-subtle Scottish lilt, “You mean Super-Glue.” That phrase ‘stuck’ with us for a long time…

Ginger has become a fixture in the family within 2 weeks of adoption. She has learned a ton of commands, and her Hebrew is really quite good. “Shvee” (sit), “Artza” (lie down) and “betten” (tummy) just to name a few. This is a dog who would rather have attention and patting/grooming than food or treats—not that she’d pass up on them altogether. She has found her place in the pack, and grooms me regularly. I could probably go without a shower with the way she makes sure I’m clean…

Ginger asleep on my stomach.

Ginger loves to swim!

As it turns out, being a dog in the US is generally a guarantee of the good life. Statistics online show that ~36% of households in the US (more than 1/3) have at least one dog, with about 70,000,000 dogs in the US. That’s a huge number—indeed it’s mind-boggling to me.

I had never noticed before the huge sections of grocery store shelves allocated to pet food and apparatus. Or the tremendous variety of types of dog food. Chicken-flavored, lamb-flavored, venison-flavored and so on. Dozens is an understatement. There are easily over a hundred at the local pet store. No wheat. No gluten. No filler. Protein this and protein that. When I had a dog in Israel, there were 2 types of dog food: Dogli and Bonzo. My dog didn’t like Dogli, which I can’t find on the web—so perhaps they’ve gone bankrupt. Bonzo was liked, and I was abl;e to track down a coupon for Bonzo, so it’s still around. But here in the US, dogs are big business indeed.

Bonzo: exactly what your dog needs–or so says the ad…

I also had been unaware of how businesses cater to pet owners. It turns out that there are a wide variety of hotels and motels that allow dogs. Some have an extra fee, others don’t. But there are many such places. But the real little anecdote I want to tell is as follows:

All through my habitation in Israel, the US was widely admired for its ingenuity. People would talk about “how things are done in America.” Something of high quality or something well organized was done “the American way” or “using the American system.” Obviously this is idolization. But even today, my sisters-in-law from Israel are still absolutely impressed by the order and organization in US society, and overall how generous people are in their interactions with one another. I do agree with this, especially here in the Midwest.

This morning I scooted out to take my daughter somewhere and then set out on a series of quick errands, including the drugstore, gas station, library and bank—to deposit a check. Ginger loves car rides and will do anything to be with me, so I loaded her in the back of the Prius and off we went. When we arrived at the bank, I decided to forego the drive-thru automated teller and use the drive-thru live teller. For those of you on the other side of the pond who may not be familiar, these ingenious stations allow one to pull up beside a little microphone in the parking lot—not physically attached to the bank—with a little chute that one can send a check or whatever to the teller inside. The chute works by air pressure and takes only a second or two to get to the bank or back to the client. I sent my check with a debit card so the teller would know which account to deposit, and before she sent the debit card back to me, she paused and asked politely: “Is it alright if I send a treat for the dog?”

Sure enough a cute little bone-shaped dog biscuit arrived a few seconds later and Ginger, needless to say, was thrilled. I think that she will be happy to return with me to the bank next time. What can I say? America!

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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6 Responses to AMERICA!

  1. cromercrox says:

    Heidi the Dog is currently on a special diet to help her lose weight and improve the muscle tone around her arthritic hips. The diet cost more than £70 for a 12kg bag. Big biznis indeed. I have considered having my salary wired directly to our veterinarian.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Ouch for the arthritis. Double-ouch for the cost of the food!

      • cromercrox says:

        It does seem to be working though. Heidi now has regained her svelte figure and shows fewer outward signs of the acetabular dysplasia from which golden retrievers are wont to suffer. One side effect of this diet is that she does dumps of monumental size…

  2. Lorraine Halparin says:

    Good Times… hope you enjoy(ed) all your visitors and love the “hundt

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