when i was a child , we had a dog who we called fritz . fritz was a little black dog , probably around 40 pounds . he had brown doberman-like markings and was a scrappy little mutt . dogs weren’t called “mixed breeds” in those days , they were just plain ol’ mutts . fritz was one of the best of them darn ol' mutts .
he had wiry hair and a tail that curled into a perfect circle . he had perky ears that stood up all the time ; he did not have floppy ears , like some dogs . he had soulful eyes . fritzy was a dog’s dog . he did what dogs do , or at least he did what dogs did in that day . he was a dog . he kept me company , he played with my sisters and me , and he barked when the mailman arrived . he ate cheap canned food for dinner or chuck wagon kibble with water . he seemed to enjoy the nice , delicious and savory gravy that the powder on the kibble created .
he smelled like a dog , too , and i am not talking about sniffing things on the ground or hunting cats . he had a knack for getting out of the backyard ; we called it “running away" . he had a knack for finding his way out of the backyard and then into the neighborhood’s garbage cans . where he found these garbage cans nobody knows , but he would return home smelling like crap and rotten food , and was drunk on being a bad dog . i am sure those whose garbage cans were overturned knew fritzy well .
he wore one of those antique plastic pest control devises known as a flea collar . i honestly have no idea if they still make flea collars , since “modern” dogs like mine use frontline to control fleas – and it works . his flea collar had to be trimmed with scissors to ensure a proper fit and it carried with it the faint smell of pesticide when it was brand new . accompanying his flea collar were his dog tags : a chain with his santa clara county license and a tag with his name , our address , and phone number on it .
his tags jingled whenever he walked . you could hear him coming . tinkle-tinkle-tinkle-tinkle . when he would scratch (since those flea collars worked so well) his chain and tags tinkled even louder and faster . ting-ting-ting-ting-ting-ting-ting-ting . you could also hear him coming by the clack of his toenails . clack-a-tinkle . clack-a-tinkle . clack-a-tinkle . clack-a-tinkle . clack-a-tinkle . clack-a-tinkle . clack-a-tinkle .
when he was excited , like when we would come home or when his dinner was being prepared , he would clacka-clacka-clacka-clacka-clacka in place . we called it “tap dancing” and he earned the nickname “fritz astaire” .
he wasn’t great on tricks or commands . he could sit . he could lie down . he would come when he was called and he would stay sometimes . he would shake . he would attack and chew on your slippers if you made them out to be monsters , a game that delighted my sisters and me into fits of giggles . he would chase you in the fields at rosemary elementary school . he would catch a frisbee , he would chase a ball , he would walk on a leash . he was a good boy .
one trick was his specialty . it was called “costs money” . my mother’s father , grampa harry , taught him this trick . i don’t remember when fritz was taught this trick , but it must have been during a thanksgiving or christmas visit . grampa harry had a great sense of humor and was a definite clown . i am sure he loved teaching this little dog this trick .
here’s how it worked :
fritz would sit . a treat would be placed in front of him . he would start towards it and would be told , “it costs money” in a tone that indicated , “you can’t eat that yet .” the phase “costs money” would continue in teasing proportions as the treat was moved closer and closer to him . he couldn’t eat the treat until he paid for it . and he knew it . you could see it in his eyes . he would sit there patiently and stare longingly at the morsel , whether a bit of thanksgiving turkey , christmas ham , salami , bread , or a milk bone charcoal dog biscuit . sometimes he would drool . sometimes he would need to settle into his sit again , or regain his balance , and his toenails would clack-clack-clack on floor .
“costs money , fritzy . it costs money .“
now , it was time to pay . services were rendered . the age-old system of barter was in play . the goods were presented , desired , and waiting to be enjoyed . but first , an exchange in this commerce game . oh capitalism , how you enthrall me !
the person who was withholding the bounty from him would extend their open hand and fritz would swipe his paw into it . this was the equivalent of him reaching into his back pocket , pulling out his wallet , and then placing cash in the open palm . at that point , the keeper of the feast exclaimed , “it’s paid for !” and fritzy would gobble up his reward .
the phrase “costs money” has been top of mind for me lately . i hear that phrase everywhere i go . everything everywhere costs money . i have not been working for the last six months and my income has been greatly reduced . i have lived my entire life with income and i have lived my entire life with expenses . there has always been money coming in and i have been good at ensuring that money goes back out again . everything everywhere costs money .
eating out costs money . ordering food in costs money . groceries cost money . a new pair of mittens cost money . learning to knit costs money . buying yarn costs money . a manicure and pedicure costs money . a new pair of nail clippers costs money . a movie costs money . a book costs money . a newspaper costs money . everything everywhere costs money .
a friend said once that the minute you walk out the door in NYC , you drop at least $30 . and the sad part is that it is true . even when attempting a “cost free day" , where you do nothing that costs money , you must budget at least $5 . there is no such thing as a “cost free” day . you watch TV and it costs money . you turn on a light it costs money . you surf the internet and it costs money . you eat lunch it costs money .
from my perspective , the only thing that does not cost money is sitting in my living room , petting my dog and thinking , something i do very often . i think about how we taught my childhood dog a trick called “costs money” and then i pet my dog . i think about how it is so true that everything really does cost money and i pet my dog again . i pet my dog and i think about how maybe i should write something about fritzy or maybe something about “costs money” .
while i pet my dog , i think about how i need to get my taxes done . even that costs money . it costs money to pay the government money . pet , pet , pet , think , think , think .
it’s a good thing that there is no way to tax thoughts or petting … yet .