Who are you guys?

Ahead of the pack cairn terriers

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Please do put a penny in the old man's hat

If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do

If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!"

Men bond on the battlefield; women at the beauty shop. Oh, what secrets we tell our hairdressers! We chafe under the yokes that bind us, tell of our loves, yearnings, disappointments, our errant husbands, or commiserate over our lack of one. We report on those who ran --- screaming or deadly quiet --- about our pain, our fleeting, sadly impossible hopes for reconciliations, about our loneliness. The hairdresser's chair --- the modern woman's confessional --- more assuaging than the analyst's couch and about as pricey!

Bundled and be-toweled, swaddled in the comfort of that chair, we talk about aging, without apology, forthright, calling it for what it is. The salon holds the cards, promises to make us look younger, more desirable. Should I become a blonde? Will I have more fun? A voluptuous redhead? Is there anything you can do about these pesky, fine lines around my eyes? Sure, go ahead and drip hot, unforgiving wax on my most tender parts to get rid of those unwanted, bristly hairs. He or she is sure to notice, as if smooth legs had anything to do with smooth sailing on a forgiving tide.

We know, in our heart of hearts, that nothing stops the ravages of time, that with each breath we take, we die a little. But, convince me, tell me what I long to hear, transform, transmogrify, transubstantiate me! There's money in it --- a juicy tip. I'll do you proud, at least until next time and after that… As the stakes get progressively higher, the "kitty" swells, rivaling those at Bellagio's tables --- no, not the Rockefellers' should-be-in-a-museum ones at Como but Wynn's, on the Strip or just off it.

However, at the salon, it's not all aches, pains, woe. Snatches of simultaneous conversations float on the hair-sprayed air. A friend overhears the story of Annie, a Cairn Terrier (canis lupus familiaris) one of the oldest of the terrier breeds, used for hunting and burrowing prey among the cairns. They're ratters and, if you encourage them, they'll do the job of a cat, rousting out mice, rabbits, squirrels. They stand their ground, are strong, loyal, tough. A big dog!

Annie is the middle child, a later add-on whose Southold family has tired of her, wants to give her the heave. My friend and her husband, comfortable in their "Greenport in Summer, Florida in Winter" routine (where they own a "no dogs allowed" condo), inquires further. Asks to meet her.

She has five, loving, adult children, and a passel of grandkids, but longs to bring one final bundle of joy home. She says Annie will be company for her husband, but I know better. I know she's already fallen, and fallen hard --- fallen in four-legged love, buoyed up on its rarified air, encircled in its warmth. What to do? Sell the condo, natch, and at a great price. Pack everything up and find a brighter, palatial spread fit for this Queen of a Dog on the Treasure Coast. Somewhere just north of Hutchinson.

So, Annie is now a welcome guest at The Dog House. Each time she sees me, she's overjoyed --- wagging, cooing, rolling over with delight, presenting her pink, softly round, pup belly for some bubble, squeek, sniff and scratch. If only humankind --- friends, lovers, mates --- responded to me, to all of us, with such unbridled joy. We'd all be buoyed up, no Doomsday in sight!

She didn't have a ha'penny, but God blessed her and, in so doing, blessed my friends.

For unto Us a Child is Born.

Make Way for Annie. She'll cut a swath right through your heart!

Pet and be petted!