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Molly, a bulldog, cuddling with a Chateau Poochie employee

Dog Day Afternoon

Raising your pet like royalty is a time-honored American tradition. But how far should we go in the name of love? A treatise from the author of the soon-to-be published dog memoir, Afterglow.

Jeff, an owner, dropping off his bichon frise in the lobby of Florida dog spa Chateau Poochie.
Sophie, a bichon frise, on her favorite chair in the Teacup Room, which costs $199 a night and includes individual playtime.

I HAD HEARD THAT IF I PUT YOU at the middle of my life my life would improve and it was true. It seemed you had a strong need to go to the country, the ocean, to live in the woods a little while. After all you really needed a car. And every time I opened the door you were so happy to jump in and see where the wonderful expedition was taking you. When you were old you had your own furniture, step-ups and soft benches so you could make the old leap into the truck still and off we’d go. You had soft bowls, and hard ones, short cups, and you would even drink right out of my hands. I had to remember to take care of you. If it was hot you needed water and I realized then that I needed water too.

___

With you everything got better. It got close. Or we could sit outside and look into the distance. Or I could just sit there, inside or out, and gaze at the parts of you. Your paws. So soft I’d rub my fingers against them, your hard round living mittens. Your pads, the underneath of your feet, were like delicate sneakers, hardy from walking barefoot all the time, but I had to also notice that I was wearing flip-›¢flops now because the tar was so hot and you were alive and felt things too. Ouch. I loved how you loved snow. You’d bounce and smile and go crazy. You learned to swim so very old. Water made you young again, light. The green illumination went on in your eyes and you had everything back again. You liked the city, the garbage, the stink, the sidewalks covered in chicken bones, and French fries and an opera of smelly stuff and the country was so wild, and you just liked to run.

___

I don’t think you were a friend, you were more like dating life itself, meeting it head-on so every time I went into it with you, or if I was in my apartment, home alone or with someone else, you always threw us back on what we were doing and how we were doing because you needed us, and your stuff, your toys, your water, your food, your in and out and that was it and why was I ever suffering, why did I think life was so complicated when it was simply this. Us here now.

Dog spa owner Amy Jo Birkenes reads to Fenway, a black Lab, during a story-time ($6 per session) demonstration in the Aquamarine Suite.
Ollie the bichon frise getting a blueberry facial in the spa. Owners pay $20 per bottle, which will be kept in a cabinet, then $8 per facial. The blueberry facial gets rid of the yellow in dogs’ fur, which Paige, the groomer, recommends for blonde human hair, too.
A pamphlet for Chateau Poochie calls it “the world’s most exclusive hotel for dogs & cats.”
Spa owner Amy Jo Birkenes’s shih tzu Mitzy gets a massage in the massage room ($30 for a 20-minute session).
Cody, a labradoodle, during playtime in the Fitness Center.
Two miniature Australian shepherds, a Yorkie named Duke, and Gator, a mix, hanging out in the Social Lounge.
Andrea with Cocoa, a mix, in Le Jardin, the outdoor garden. Cocoa likes to jump from the ground onto Andrea’s shoulders during playtime outside.

Bear, a bullmastiff (and employee favorite), enjoying some sunshine in Le Jardin.

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Cold Open

Mouseland

Begin this month’s issue with 1960 speech from a Canadian politician about cats, mice and reaching for more than the political hand that you’re dealt.

Off Topic

Letter From the Editor

Welcome to Topic.

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Divisions of Labor

Who Runs the Government?

One of the biggest differences between America’s political parties is the role of government. So it’s time to actually meet some public servants.

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War Games

Memorial Day is celebrated across the U.S. but it’s a particularly special day in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In some ways, it seems that the battle never ended.

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America’s Miniature Melting Pots

You’ve heard of Little Italy in Manhattan or Chinatown in San Francisco. But what about Little India in Millbourne, Pennsylvania?

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Highway Robbery

The city of Syracuse, New York, is divided, and not just metaphorically. Interstate 81 has carved the town in half, and the results are tragic.

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Divisions of Labor

Automation Nation

Which jobs will be done by our robot friends in the future? Here are six industries on the brink of transformation.

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Adapted

Hot Ticket

A famous, controversial, and very American short story, visualized as a photo-essay.

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Customer Service

Life in Los Angeles means waiting in line, either to serve or be served.

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In the town of Nucla, Colorado, owning a gun is the law of the land.

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Our nation’s birthday requires a new song.

Rules of Engagement

The rise in mass shootings has not gone unnoticed by law enforcement. Hence, new training grounds that are particularly of this time: schools to prepare students, teachers, and police for the next armed intruder.

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When the Dam Broke

Infrastructure is a popular issue across party lines. But as the twisted tale of L.A. water shows us, it’s not as easy as we think.

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Our Town

There Goes the Neighborhood

In this series, we ask a photographer to turn the lens on her hometown. Visit a Northern California city with a suddenly hot real estate market.

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Off Topic

Notes on Detention Camp

Office parks, island nations, private prisons—all immigrant detention centers. Here are six examples of how American government officials have been both metaphorically and literally hiding these bureaucratic nightmares from view.

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The American Dreamsicle

The quintessential summer experience, melting in your hand.

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War doesn’t just impact the battlefield. In this essay, we look at seven sites within the U.S. where environmental damage has followed military build-up.

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Off Topic

How to Get Away with Spying for the Enemy

The wild story of one lawyer, two men and some very unlikely defenses for espionage against America.

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Florida Man

Taken from the true-life news stories that spawned many memes, Florida Man collects the crimes, misdemeanors, and bizarrely unclassifiable actions of denizens of the Sunshine State.