“Nein, ich spreche nicht deutsch.”

A technicality, twice. I took German in high school, junior and senior year. My freshman year of college, I was determined to preserve what I had learned and immediately signed up for Beginner German. It was a small school, so any one with any previous German experience was bumped to Intermediate. I wasn’t ready. Miraculously, I squeaked out an A the first semester and a C for the next one. I remember sitting for the dialogue exam and watching my professor’s face. She was shocked and surprised at the string of words that came forth — they were correct. I had no idea what I was saying, but it “felt” right? I’d memorized it, together like a pile of pasta all stuck together. It didn’t mean a thing to me. The sound of languages just pass through me, without a flicker of recognition. Written is better, but none of it is easy.

I said twice. For graduate school, I had to either meet the prerequisite for foreign language or take a language comprehension exam. My mentor had taught herself German and taken the exam for a third language requirement. That was not my path. The prerequisite? To have a B average in the Intermediate level course, which I just barely had. This is how I passed through all of my university time with just two semesters of college German. I did take Reading French just in case I was better in a different language. Not really, but I did appreciate the lack of spoken work.

Back to that A my Freshman year… My German teacher brought back a dog from a horse back riding trip in Kia Michi, Oklahoma. The small dog came with her own legend. She was a camp dog, following behind the horses, crossing the river with them, staying with the group. She had a nasty puncture wound over her eye, pieces of her ears were missing, her tail was a stick, and her teeth were in bad shape. I took to this tiny hero the moment I saw her. The professor said she just couldn’t leave the dog, but she couldn’t keep her. I named her Michi. She was so quiet, it was many months before I realized she could bark. Her hair grew in and after a trip to the groomer, she could pass for the most pampered of pooches. She was unique, some blend of papillon and terrier? Her gray, white and black coat was silky and long, a 10 lb. fuzzball. She spent many hours with me in my art studio, a faithful companion for the next 10 years.

I adopted her because I needed a dog and she needed me, quite a coincidence that I made an A that first semester. The second semester, there was no dog to adopt. I earned my C, averaged to a B.



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