D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e     September 2005

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Jeannie Miller's rollicking little essay may be our first-ever contest finalist to combine fashion and pets. But as important as our furry friends are to life in Southwest New Mexico, why the heck not?


Sandulik Has a New Att-i-tude

When it comes to hairdos, why should humans
have all the fun?

By Jeannie Miller

Paul, my interim hairdresser, and I were discussing the phenomenon of hairdo psychology. I used to say, "When I turn 60, I'm going to shave my head." But then, about two years ago, the strain of being a member of the Sandwich Generation changed all that. My day job was hell. My mother was fading mentally and physically. My husband was in chronic pain and not getting any relief from it. My older son hated his job. My younger son hated everything. I was constantly on the phone to Tucson to handle my mother's financial and daily living affairs. I paid the bills at home. I was teaching at night. I was going to the gym as much as possible. My best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was getting overwhelming.

What did I do? I tossed my hair dryer and hair curler in the bathroom cabinet, invested in maximum-strength hair gel and began slicking my short hair straight back, off my forehead, behind my ears, away from my eyes, and outta my face. Some people said it looked great. Others weren't so sure. I liked it. At the time.

"Good Dog" by Silver City artist Gabriella Denton.

Then, my mother died, work mellowed out a bit, other things slowed down, including me. And gradually I began to soften my hairdo. Looking back at a group picture of the family taken in the midst of the angst and weariness, my sister noted, with regards to my "do," "A tad bit severe, wouldn't you say?" "Yes, but the times were severe and so was I," I answered. And I haven't considered shaving my head since.

Which brings me back to my discussion with Paul. It is his observation that whenever any major life event occurs, the first thing we do is change our hairdo. This seems to help us cope or give us something to focus on while solutions to life are working their way up through the background of our minds. It is my observation that this doesn't just apply to people--dogs are equally susceptible to the New Hairdo Effect.

Which brings us to Sandulik.

About two months back, Sandulik's groomers highly recommended that she lose weight. Taking their advice, I put her on a diet. I was afraid they wouldn't take her back if they had to lift her into the tub while she still weighed in at 100 pounds. Green beans, one cup of kibble, a dollop of cottage cheese (because I love her), twice a day. She appeared to handle this Spartan fare without complaining. (She may have said something to Pantouffe, our 185-pound, juvenile merle Great Dane, but she didn't say anything to me.) She just waited eagerly, twice a day, for me to provide her with her little bowl. And at 3 p.m., she was right at the pantry door, ready for her tea-time biscuit.

As her waistline began to ever-so-slightly appear, Sandulik and I began venturing out a few feet beyond the front gate. I increased the length of the walks, ever-so-slightly each time, so she wouldn't notice, and as of a couple of weeks ago, we began making the long, uphill two-block climb to Gabriella's apartment. Gabriella is an artist with a delightful sense of humor. She's very big on color and making joyful art.

When we neared the crest of the last hill, Sandulik waddled up to Gabriella's door as I called out that we had arrived. Then, with Arizona Tea in glasses, Gabriella and I sat down under the mulberry tree in the Silver City morning freshness and Sandulik joined us because she loves girl things--like girl visits, girl talk, just being with girls. At this point in time, Sandulik's hairdo was of the long and shedding style, leaving fur everywhere in her wake. Black with highlights of brown. Gray undercoat, coming out in poofs like cotton balls. White here and there for accent and on her feet. Not exactly Gabriella's color choices for gaiety and fun, but sometimes, when you're overweight, you tend towards the dark and neutral colors. That's where Sandulik was, at the time.

Then, this past Monday morning, I once again took Sandulik to the groomers. Time for her summer "do." I picked her up later that afternoon.

New wo-o-o-o-man!!!!!

She looked like she'd lost 25 pounds in six hours. She looked almost petite. Her torso was shaved down to the bottom layer of fur. I could discern a rib. Her tail was black, fully plumed, displaying shimmers of brown. Her head and ears were shining from a great shampoo and dry job. Black was no longer visible on her torso. She was now a smooth, silver gray, tinted with streaks of pale yellow, a dabble of white. And all the fur between her toes was gone. She looked like an uncooked bratwurst. BUT. . .

Now she walks with a lilt. She leaps and bounds in and out of the house. She barks at the water-meter reader, and at the lady who lives behind us, and at the lady who lives above us. She holds her own against Pantouffe when he tries to beat her out the back door. She's ready to go--anytime, anywhere. And she has two new outfits that she sports every chance she gets--one kerchief with bright red and green watermelons and one with dazzlingly yellow pineapples and pink Hawaiian shirts. Gabriella's influence is clearly evident in her choice of motifs and color. Sandulik laughs, she grins, and she embraces her femininity. She takes long deep breaths. She exudes confidence. She IS the alpha dog.

Think about it. Here's this girl dog. Overweight for years. The object of affectionate, but nevertheless sometimes hurtful, jokes. Second fiddle to the canine pony that lives with her. Barely able to get her rear end off the ground. She accomplished running by hopping on her two back legs. Performed Breath of Fire (a yoga style of panting), no matter what the situation, because she couldn't breathe normally. Then, she loses a little weight.

And, what's the first thing she does? SHE CHANGES HER HAIRDO!

And everything looks different. Color! Joy! Enthusiasm for life! Bring on the limited menu! Let's take off some more pounds! Then I can hike Allie Canyon! Then I can hop up on the big bed and I don't have to stay on the floor all night!

I guess it all boils down to how you look at life. If things are going poorly, you can dig a hole and sink further down. You can hide in any number of ways.

Or. . .

You can change the way you wear your hair. Give yourself time to ponder the situation, as you admire yourself in the mirror, and figure it all out. And, when you've got everything fixed, you just go back to your hairdresser or barber again, and see what the future brings.

May each of you find happiness, health and love in your life. And may all your hairdos be stunning.


Jeannie Miller recently retired from corporate America and returned to her roots in the Southwest. She lives in Silver City with her husband, Glenn, and their two dogs Sandulik the Recently-Svelte and Pantouffe the Huge, both in training to hike Allie Canyon.

Silver City artist Gabriella Denton's paintings and prints can be seen at Silver Cooks & Flowerings, 215 W. Yankie,
534-4514, and Bloomin' Gourdworks, 211 N. Texas, in Silver City; Spirit Winds, 2260 Locust, 521-0222, in Las Cruces; the Folk Art and Fine Art Museum shops and Coady Contemporary Gallery (abstracts) in Santa Fe; and Taos Fine Art. Or call 388-4575.

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