Chats with Charlie: IWD and Tennessee

A couple of weeks ago, we went for a short five day visit to Knoxville Tennessee. My sister-in-law lives there with her family and she was coming up to her 60th birthday. Lynne and I jumped in a car with a family friend and Lynne’s father and off we went.

There wasn’t enough room in the car, so we left Charlie behind with his good friend Mickey. He is a small cockapoo, a bit smaller than Charlie but just as full of energy. They have been pals forever. Mickey and his man Grant would house sit with Charlie while we were away.

When we got home, Charlie was happy enough to see us, but also sorry to see Mickey and Grant go back to their own place. He moped around for a while but got over it soon enough. For most dogs, anything that happened an hour ago is becoming a distant memory. Yesterday is gone forever and tomorrow never arrives. Charlie is happy to live in the moment most of the time, but sometimes something stays with him for longer. He chews on old discarded ideas as though they are old discarded bones.

The first thing I had to do after bringing the luggage into the house was take Charlie around the block.

“Where have you been?” he asked while lifting his leg against a hydro pole.

“I told you,” I said. “We went to Tennessee for Nancy’s birthday.”

“Huh,” he said, “were any dogs there? Were Ellie and Bentley there?”

“Of course they were there,” I answered. “They live there. Bentley is getting old and grey, and Ellie is starting to snap at other dogs. Remember you were always fighting with her last time we were there?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Thanks for leaving me home with Mickey.”

I don’t think he was being sarcastic, and I left it alone for the rest of the walk while Charlie filled me in on some of the things he and his friend had gotten up to. I thought that was the end of it, until we went out on Tuesday morning. It was a nice day. Warm enough that the melting snow was leaving muddy puddles on the boulevards and sidewalks and all over the park.

“What’s this about IWD?” he asked. The question came at me out of the mud below his paws.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Where did you hear about that?”

“Never mind where I heard it,” He said, “I just did. What’s it all about? Is it International Westie’s Day?”

“No,” I said, “it’s International Women’s Day today, a day to celebrate the achievements won by women over the last hundred years or so. There have been a lot of them, and let’s hope there’s more to come. And no,” I quickly added, “there is not an International Westie’s Day.”

“Well,” Charlie said as he sat down in a mud puddle, “there should be one, but we won’t get into that now. What are some of these achievements you’re talking about?”

“There was the right to vote,” I said. “It’s been 98 years since Canadian women won the right to choose their government. There was also the right to own property, and the right to equal pay for work of equal value. None of it came easily, which is why we celebrate the bravery of the women who led the way.”

Charlie gave three quick barks. It sounded a bit like three cheers, but he might have seen a squirrel climbing a tree trunk.

As we got closer to the corner, Charlie stopped again and asked about the bravery bit.

“Well,” I said, “It takes courage to stand up and challenge injustices that have been commonly accepted for hundreds of years. The people who have run the show unchallenged didn’t just roll over and give up without a fight.”

“I suppose so,” said Charlie. “What I can’t see is why all the fuss. It’s not like some people lost their right to vote when women won theirs.”

“You’re right,” I said. “This makes the suffering all the more tragic. Sometimes men also benefit when women move forward.”

“Okay,” said Charlie, with his head tilted at an inquisitive angle. “Tell me how.”

“When we were down in Tennessee,” I said, “we went to a small museum in a small town called Clinton. Sixty years ago, the American courts ordered an end to segregated schools and Clinton High School became the first one to integrate black and white students. Twelve kids – five young women and seven young men – were the first black students to enrol in a formerly all-white school.

“Everything was going fine until some Klansmen came up from Alabama and down from New Jersey and stirred up a riot. The kids must have been terrified, but they were not intimidated. The racist violence carried on for years, and included a bomb that destroyed the whole school. It was a mess, but those young women held on. They won the longer battle, and now every kid down there can benefit from the same quality of education.”

“Good for them,” said Charlie. “It makes me think of my friends Sadie and Mickey.”

This made me stop and think for a while. I was afraid to ask why, but I did. “None of us look at all alike,” Charlie said. “Mickey’s smaller, Sadie’s bigger. Mickey and I are male, Sadie’s female. I’m white, Mickey’s brown, Sadie’s black, but we all get along fine. The park is plenty big enough to hold us all.”

“Very well said,” I said. “Sometimes we can learn a thing or two from our dogs.”

“What do you mean, sometimes,” said Charlie. “Look, we’re almost home. I’m just about ready to get out of this leash and into a liver treat. And I have a meeting to go to this afternoon.”

“A meeting?” I stammered. “What kind of a meeting?”

“It’s the campaign to abolish dog leashes,” he said. “Freedom should be something you can support.”

“Oh dear,” I said.

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