Category Archives: Animals

Bumper Crop

As it turns out, the one tomato plant I bought on a whim because it cost a dollar (even though it was wilted, mostly dead or dying and seemed to be more brown than green) was the plant of the garden this year, producing, shall we say, a rather bumper crop of produce:

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As for the rest, a confession: despite earlier enthusiasm, I eventually left the garden to fallow…though before it can do that I suppose it needs “to rot.”

It is. Rotting, I mean.

Nothing untoward or gross – just a slow decay indicative, really, of my failure to provide care or manage it.

To care, I mean.

The other tomato plants died in the ungodly heat and for lack of rain, and water (two very different things, as it turns out). Likewise, the jalapeños and other assorted peppers (bell, ghost, habanero) perished. The squash and the mystery plants, though a mysteries no more, were ravaged by vermin (raccoons, skunks, squirrels and rabbits, we had them all this year).

It was more than enough to demoralize, to quit. To not to care, not anymore.

I can only blame myself. And the gods.

I realize. I was too ambitious. Next year will be another year, at least, to try.

But that, I also suppose, goes without saying.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Change, Death, Food, Hobbies, Plants, THE FUTURE

Conversations About Dogs With Near Strangers

I had met Shari before, at a seminar, but we did not speak to each other, the class getting much in the way of that.

On our second meeting, waiting in the dim little hallway for the class to begin, we talked about dogs.

Hers is 8 years old, a bulldog/boxer mix with an attitude problem that she’s tried to work with him to, if not remedy (he’s too far gone for that), mitigate. I told her about Lou, our 14 year old dachshund, and even got into the specifics of his many issues and countless idiosyncrasies, and all the things we’ve done to help him along with those.

Strangers can talk to each other about their dogs for days; dogs being a “safe” topic for discussion with people you don’t really know all that well – a way to talk about yourself without having to talk about yourself.

Dogs help us open up.

A confession, then, from Shari: “I know this sounds weird, but I’m already thinking of the day I’ll have to put my dog down. I shouldn’t be, he’s old but not that old. But I can’t seem to help it.”

“I think about that too,” I replied. “It’s not so weird.”

“Well, when I have to, I’ll have to. You know?”

Dogs teach us about responsibly (to think about it, to take it seriously). They help us with our empathy. And they teach us about mortality: the impermanence of things, and what (if anything) we can do about it.

Another confession from Shari: “I’m worried about how my newborn son will get along with my dog. But we’ll just have to figure something out. I am not getting rid of the dog.”

Ah, yes. Of course.

Dogs help us prioritize.

 

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Filed under Animals, Death, Dogs, Mind and Body, People, Philosophy

Dog Sit

Recently, my sister asked if I wouldn’t mind dog sitting.

I love dogs. Love them! So why not?

I have a dog myself: Louis, my 14 year-old dachshund. More dogs? An additional dog? Sure! Why would I mind? What would there be to mind?

Turns out, I did mind. I mind, a lot.

So much minding over so much to be minded about:

 

1. Smell

Dogs smell. Not just the ability or the power (to smell) but the fact of the thing itself (the smell of dog). Dogs. Smell. Did you know that? This dog, the one I’m dog sitting, smells. Like dog. Like a big dog, so much bigger than a dachshund, let alone a 14 year-old dachshund and his dachshund smell I’ve been smelling for so many years I don’t smell it anymore. Big dog smell. In my house. Just wafting around, riding the currents of our A/C like some rude, musky little ghost.

2. Space

I live in a tiny place with tiny furniture and this dog – with his big dog paws and big dog butt and big dog poops and big scoops of dog food that go into making the big dog poops – cannot seem to maneuver without bumping into something or knocking something down or pushing something – a carefully placed something, mind you, that brings together the room just so – totally, utterly into the worst space imaginable (i.e. to be crushed underfoot or under such garish light or harsh angle(s) as to force me on more than one occasion to question my sense of taste; my ability to see the beauty in life itself).

3. Hair

 Everywhere. Every goddamn nook and cranny in a home full of nooks and crannies. This dog’s hair is not fur but hair, OK? Tiny little eyelash things that – while pixyish and cute upon first blush – have become a plague upon our household. They, too, ride the air currents, whirling here and there, landing where they will, be it in the corners of the room, on the stovetop or in unguarded eyes and noses and mouths. Actually, forget about simply acting as a garnish on our spaghetti or in our tea, these little hairs everywhere are now are part of the chemical makeup of every single thing to be found in our place.

4. Water

This particular dog spills about half the water he drinks out the sides of his mouth while drinking. Socks are a luxury we can no longer afford, lest they become soaked in pungent spillover dog-snot water. Thank god for the hardwood floors, though our place being as old as it is, the water tends to pool in odd places where the wood is uneven, thus forming a series of pools that somehow remind me of the surface of the moon.

 

So, you know, after all this I realized something rather crucial about myself: I may not love dogs. May never have loved them at all. Just my dog. My singular, very particular dog who himself has caused me no end of trouble. No other dogs need apply. I’m good. I’m set.

I’M DONE.

***

Recently, a friend asked to if I wouldn’t mind babysitting.

I’m still laughing.

I have not stopped laughing.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Dogs, Family, Interruptions, People, Pets

Open Secrets, Vol. 12

  • Blame destiny.
  • Never the less.
  • Shamble if you have to.
  • Don’t know vs. Don’t tell.
  • Space Forced.
  • Aspirations & exasperations.
  • IT’S EVERYTHING (until it isn’t).
  • He smelled very well vs. He smelled very good.
  • You just don’t say.
  • Equivalences will take us all down too.
  • Poke that bear.
  • Feelings vs. Emotions
  • Culture, culture everywhere.
  • Who ever is tallest.
  • Don’t not.
  • Credit fate.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Change, Interruptions, Language, Words

Mondo

Not long ago, Mondo came to live with us.

Mondo (adverb/adjective/slang): used in reference to something very striking or remarkable of its kind; very large or great in amount or number.

Mondo is a crested gecko.

Crested Gecko Facts:

  • Originally from southern New Caledonia but now ubiquitous in pet stores and among hobbyists as they are easy to breed and care for, and have a life span of about 15 years.
  • Tree dwellers with a semi-prehensile tail, which combined with specialized toes, allow the gecko to climb almost any solid surface (including glass).
  • Crested geckos can detach their tails when threatened. Unlike other geckos, crested gecko tails do not grow back once detached.
  • Crested geckos are eyelid-less. They use their tongues to clean and moisten their eyes.
  • Thought extinct until “rediscovered”, alive and well, in 1994.
  • Great jumpers; excellent poses.

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A former classroom pet, Mondo was re-homed once before coming to live with us in our office. That makes: us, a dog, two fish, a tarantula, and now a crested gecko.

Have we become “those people”? We are assuredly just a bird or turtle or gerbil away from official menagerie status (faded southern belles need not apply).

So many animals, mondo creatures. Pets galore!

Q: What’s it like living with a crested gecko?

A: It’s like every other day, except now there’s a gecko.

Which is to say, improved somewhat. A measurable improvement on the everyday.

Mondo good.

 

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Filed under Animals, Names, Pets

Enemies List

In order of increasing urgency (if not importance):

 

1. My Past Self.

2. My Future Self.

3. The Squirrel with the White-Tipped Tail that I Suspect Lives On My Roof.

 

Past Self keeps making messes for me to clean up; and Future Self keeps eluding our shared responsibilities, leaving me alone between them to deal with consequences I should have and also never see coming.

There is nothing I can do with catch up to my Future Self, and my Past Self has already done all the damage she’s going to do.

That leaves the Squirrel, who digs holes right in front of the porch steps in its efforts, I’m sure, to kill me. It leaves messes on my windowsills and curses at me whenever I leave or enter the house.

(I wish I knew squirrel language).

The squirrel is my undoubtedly enemy. But in a way, I appreciate its tenacity; it’s apparent resolve to defeat me in such outlandish fashion. There are those whom I regard much less than this squirrel, who have done much less and much more to me, personally, than this squirrel – who annoys and even entertains so much more than it will ever actually hurt me.

Maybe I should just leave it at that. In any case, it has been and will always be too late for anything else.

This squirrel will never be my friend.

 

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Filed under Animals, People, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

Dreams Don’t Mean A Thing

1) I dreamt that I failed my Crime and Politics final presentation. I wanted my grade, but the professor refused to give it to me so I dropped out of university instead and began to walk to earth.

2) I dreamt I was at Niagara Falls. I wasn’t doing anything – just watching the falls from the edge of the cliffs surrounding the falls. I don’t know if I was on the U.S. or Canadian side.

3) I dreamt I was standing in a snow-covered field at the base of a hill. People came to me with their paperwork and, one by one, I helped them fill out their forms. Then they went up a wooden staircase to the top of the hill, and I never saw them again.

4) An unscrupulous laboratory switches my brain with someone else’s. This someone is a ring-tailed lemur. I can think and understand the people around me, but I can’t talk, can’t communicate with them. Two women break me out of the lab. We take refuge in the world-renowned Simpsons Museum, which is also a maze. It has purple walls and is filled with giant fibre-glass Homer heads. There are MC Escher stairways everywhere: above and through the maze. Then the museum opens to the public and is flooded by tourists. I perch on the wall and watched them run around the maze.

5) I am stationed at a post-apocalyptic compound. It’s nighttime and I’m standing behind a fence. There are many other people with me, and some of them have lit torches. I am trying to save someone, but have no idea who it is. There is a group of men gathered around a coffin. The coffin is empty. It is also pure white. Suddenly, one of the men turns around so that I can see his face. It’s Ash from Army of Darkness (not Bruce Campbell)…only he’s dressed in a sailor outfit that Bruce Campbell wore in McHale’s Navy. Also, his face is bloated and discoloured because he is a zombie. Ash shouts, but does not make a sound. The men try to hook the coffin to a pulley so they can hoist it up a hill, the top of which is full of vampires. They are in a desperate hurry, as if something very terrible is about to happen. I have no idea how one white coffin is supposed to destroy an army of vampires, and neither does Ash.

6) Freddie Mercury is missing and my team is responsible for finding him. But we aren’t cops or special forces or investigators or anything: just grad students. In fact, a few of the people on my team are people from my MA program. The search focusses on the water: Freddie is down there somewhere. I dive in and wait for a very long time. It is so dark and so blue and above me swims a massive school of fish. Massive fish. They remind me of those Amazonian fish from the Vancouver Aquarium. There fish are there with a purpose: to keep me underwater. I am so afraid. Freddie appears. He has long, scraggly hair but he is Freddie Mercury all the same. When I look up again at the fish trying, I suppose, to think of a way out, it occurs to me that Freddie and I have been tied together. We wait. Despite the threat of the fish, because we are together we don’t feel like we have to leave, to get to safety, right away. It’s eerily silent; there’s a palpable calm, down there in the deep. I notice then that I’m not wearing any diving equipment, and neither is Freddie. We wait. Then, on some signal I can’t see or hear but feel, someone pulls us up, up, up out of the blue – past the darkness, pass the fish and right onto an underground surface. Freddie and I are separated by my team leader, a man who looks very much John Travolta. I report back to the office: a maze of secret chambers and dirt tunnels. I see one of my team members: she is putting away books and filing paper work at her desk. I’m searching for something (my next assignment…Freddie?) and become frantic. I turn around and I’m in a fancy hotel lobby. There’s a confused couple there. Tourists. The man is wearing a colourful Hawaiian shirt and a pith helmet. The woman is a blank. I help them check to their room before checking in myself. But I am at the wrong hotel and I know it.

 

THE END

 

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Filed under Animals, Celebrity, Dreams, Interruptions, Pop Culture

Kick Ass

The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (DSC) is located in Guelph, Ontario. It is a not-for-profit charity funded by private donations and currently houses 86 equines (meaning donkeys, mules and hinnies). A mule is the offspring of a (male) donkey and a (female) horse. A hinny is the offspring of a (female) donkey and a (male) horse.

Here is the DSC’s startlingly-detailed and rather intrepid About Us:

Since 1992, The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada has been a refuge for donkeys, mules and hinnies who have been neglected or abused, or who can no longer be cared for by their owners. The Sanctuary rescues the donkey with hooves so long it lives in constant pain and cannot walk. It saves a terrified mule shivering in a pen in a slaughterhouse. It offers a home to a much-loved donkey whose aging owners can no longer provide adequate care. At the Sanctuary, the animals are provided a welcome and often life-saving peaceful haven after years of suffering and neglect.

The DSC does all these things and more. I learned a lot about donkeys, mules and hinnies during my visit there, and got to wander among these great beasts – with names like Cargo and Hershey and Daisy and Bob Ray – for one lovely summer’s afternoon. Some were amendable to knowing me. Others, decidedly not.

Does it matter? As the DSC’s puts it: We feel fortunate to be in proximity to such gentle souls day after day.

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There are worse ways to spend your time.

***

Donkey Facts:

  • Mules and hinnies are the offspring of donkey (and horse) parents, but 99.9% of the time cannot breed amongst themselves to make more mules or hinnies. This does not stop them from trying, and after all, who would? Such efforts may seem futile (a group of mules, after all, is called a “barren”), but by definition not impossible.
  • When presented with a situation, donkeys think, then decide their course of action – which means they choose, and on their own terms, whether they will do something, or not. Some might call that being “stubborn,” but then there will be always people who demean that which they don’t understand or that which refuses to satisfy their wants and needs.
  • Due to the harshness of their natural environment(s) (i.e. arid scrubland) a donkey’s sense of “flight-or-fight” is geared more towards “fight” then “flight,” resources such as food and water being scarce. Donkeys would rather hold their ground and face what’s coming. Not many of us can say the same, though that’s not the donkeys’ fault.

Favourite Donkey Fact:

Q: Do you know how a donkey goes about attacking predators – say, a coyote? (You’d think it was by rearing up and kicking at it with its back legs, yes?)

A: The donkey grabs the thing by its scruff, grabs it as hard is it can with its teeth, and then uses its front legs to pummel the thing to death.

Great beasts, gentle souls, and never to be underestimated.

The Miraculous Mule.

The Wonderous Hinny.

That Incomparable Donkey.

 

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Filed under Animals, Places, Travel

The Chubbalobster

A friend texted me “Chubbalobster” the other day. Monday of this week, in fact.

I can’t get into the specifics of the Chubbalobster right now. But I will tell you it was a, sort of, brain hiccup we had during our undergraduate years. We were anthropology students strung out on ethnographic method! It was bound to happen – this perfect collision (or is that collusion?) of manic giddiness and prostrate misery that resulted in a thing called (for whatever reason) the “Chubbalobster”…and then just as easily, it seems, utterly forgotten.

But the other day, it popped into his head.

Chubbalobster!

“So what WAS a Chubbalobster?”

Damned if I knew.

He told me that I drew it once. Did I? And then I realized that he was right: I did. I did draw it, once. Once upon a time I drew a – I drew the Chubbalobster. I’d just totally forgotten about it. Or rather, I failed to remember.

Very different.

So I drew it again, the Chubbalobster, to see if I could. But now I realize that this rendering of the Chubbalobster may or may not come close to approximating the original.

Chubbalobster

Doesn’t it? Or does it? I just have no real idea. Neither does my friend. But it is a Chubbalobster if not the Chubbalobster and that will have to be enough for everybody.

Chubbalobster. It’s been years and years. Years since I’ve remembered, years since that particular neural pathway has been fired up, years in which you, Chubbalobster, and for all intents and purposes, did not exist.

And yet, and then: “I think you drew it once didn’t you?”

***

A working definition of Chubbalobster, now that I’ve got some bearing on it:

[Chubbalobster: Among the things from your past pulled from other people’s memories.]

I am not sure if I am comforted by that.

Confounded, surely. Yes, without a doubt.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Friends, Language, Names, Words

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.

 

 

________________________________________________

Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships