Category Archives: Animals

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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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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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.

 

 

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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

Open Secrets, Vol. 8

– Cheese it (every time)!

– Actually, that is exactly who you care.

– Hot Take vs. Cold Open.

– Just bury it in the news cycle.

– The lesser of two evils is only the devil you know.

Kill it with: kindness, love, fire.

– Bad News vs. The Worst News.

– Few or not many makes little difference.

Hard times: ahead, behind us, now.

– Found Objects vs. Lost Causes.

– Butter makes it better; extra butter makes it extra butter.

– Mild Ambitions vs. Wild Aspirations.

– Your kids; my dog.

– Miserable Truths vs. Beautiful Lies.

Better to be: interesting(?), loved(?), present(?).

– Leader but not boss.

– Nice vs. Nice Enough.

– Skin deep is still just a little bit deep.

– Eat your cake, and have it too.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Children, Food, People, Philosophy

Fish Story

1. Storm Waters

The pond was located not too far from my cousin’s house, just behind the park, close (but not too close) to the highway.

“We’re going fishing,” she said, bucket and net in hand. She was a year older than me and, therefore, wiser by ages. I was in charge of the fish food: a full canister of blue and yellow and pink flakes that we had procured from her parents’ vast inventory.

Hers was a family of fish breeders. Her parents, my aunt and uncle, breed and raised fish and showed them competitively, sold the rest. Not a profession, just a hobby. But one they took very, very, ever-so seriously.

The storm pond water was murky and littered with patches of thick-grown, brown flecked green scum that rode the motion of the overflow as the pond lapped at our flip-flops.

“Ready?” She filled the bucket with some of the water, careful not to collect too much of the scum. Then she opened the canister, popping the foil seal just so (releasing its freshness), and held the net at the ready. “Now!”

We tossed handfuls of the fish flakes onto the water’s surface, rich fragrant snowflakes among the assorted waste of the storm waters.

“Wait.”

It didn’t take long. One by one and then in groups and then in droves came the fish. Fish of all shapes and colours – anything, really, that you could imagine from your local pet store. Murky water turned a riot of gold, white, red, black mixed with blue, yellow, pink. Tails swished, fins broke the filmy surface, bodies churned the murk it into a frothy mess from which bulging, unblinking eyes glared at us like spotlights. Open mouths; so many open, toothless mouths.

Poor, abandoned creatures. Tossed away (discarded, dumped, flushed) by people who I imagine had once been enamoured by their charms, by the prettiness of their delightful hues, clever contours and cute underwater antics, which were now all rendered grotesque. Life in the storm waters had caused the fish to change, to grow to monstrous sizes and into unseemly proportions. Into ungainly, ugly masses; living breathing tumours. Absolute freaks among freaks.

“When we have enough, we can go home,” my cousin said matter-of-factly. With practiced strokes she began netting the fish, the weight of them bending the pole into a most unnatural angle.

I never asked her how much was enough. It would not have been the proper question to ask, at that time. It was a lot.

And I never asked what the fish were for, what she intended to do with them.

 

2. Over Turned Bucket

Here, catfish aren’t exactly good eating, and I remember my dad holding a particular distain for the uncouth creatures – all eyes and slick mottled skin and barbs you could not convince him weren’t somehow dangerous. But luck is a fickle thing: we caught so many fish that day, and all of them catfish. Perhaps he felt that he needed to salvage the day somehow, redeem ourselves as best we could. In perhaps the only way we could.

The garage was the only place my dad was allowed to clean and prepare the fish we caught. Mom, ever fearsome, made sure of that, and it’s hard to blame her. The stink of fresh water fish, no matter how freshly caught, no matter how much my dad insisted he’d get it all, had a way of lingering long past due.

The preparing of the fish was always a solemn affair. Dad talked little as he worked, and we either watched him or we didn’t. Talk little, work fast, that’s all that mattered. Be there with him or no, dad would do the work regardless.

I crept into the garage, careful not to make unnecessary noise. Dad was at the worktable, effortlessly sliding a big knife lengthwise through the body of a particularly girthy catfish. Its head was missing, its fins and tail soon to follow.

“Don’t get too close to the knife,” he said, not bothering to take his eyes off the fish. “Move.”

I did as told, accidentally knocking over the metal bucket I missed seeing on my way in. It hit the concrete floor with a soft bang, overturning its burden so that it was undeniable. There was no looking away from them.

The heads. That’s where dad put them. The squirming, gasping, wide-eyed heads. The twitched, they spasmed, they stared right through me as they whispered unheard words with wet fish lips. Curses, for all I know. Wicked incantations, gulping greedily at the air, seeking purchase.

One, two, three…five, seven, eight. All the fish we had caught that day, though even now I could swear to you that there were so many more than that, fish be dammed.

(Later I’d learn that it was an automatic nervous/muscular response, the fact of the heads moving after decapitation).

But tell that to the child who for all I know is still there, counting heads, unable to do much else. Unable to be of much use to anyone.

 

3. The Osprey

Years later. New house, new backyard patio. A birthday BBQ featuring my dad’s famous pork chops, chicken and quail. A most sumptuous repast.

My cousin wasn’t there. We are, for all intents and purposes, estranged.

So I wasn’t thinking of her as I let my head fall back on the cushion of my chair and gazed at the impossibly blue sky.

It had been years since I’ve gone fishing with my dad. But I wasn’t thinking about that either.

I wasn’t expecting to see the bird or much, really, of anything.

Osprey are fishers. People at the dog park near the river sometimes freak out, seeing an osprey hovering above them and, more to the point, their small dogs. There is a part of me that wants to tell them not to worry, to reassure them that everything is, in fact, OK: this particular bird of prey will do no harm to them or, more to the point, their dogs. But then I wonder how much good it will do: people also do so love drama and the dog park, indeed, is a rather sleepy one.

The osprey that came into view above my head as I sat in my chair on my parents’ patio during my dad’s birthday BBQ flew low, struggling to keep hold of its massive catch.

The fish held in its talons was easily bigger than the bird by half. But then, maybe I’m exaggerating, for dramatic effect. This much is true: the poor thing gleamed gold-orange, gold-orange-gold, huge scales protruding off its belly, which was so engorged it seemed likely to explode in the heat of the sun as the fish twitched and spasmed, struggling to free itself.

Of course, we laughed: some ridiculous person in my parents’ ridiculous neighbourhood had lost their ridiculous fish from their ridiculous (that is to say, exquisitely landscaped) backyard pool.

But now I find myself thinking of my cousin and of the storm waters and wondering what, exactly, the osprey had caught, and where, and also what my dad would have done if the bird had dropped the fish in the middle of his BBQ.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Death, Downtime, Family, Friends, Pets, Places

Loose Facts

The Facts are These:

1. William Lyon Mackenzie King (not to be confused with William Lyon Mackenzie), Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, had three dogs named Pat. Not at the same time: he had one dog (named Pat), the dog (Pat) died, and then he got another dog and named it Pat. He did this three times: Pat I, Pat II, Pat III.

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Three Kings.

Rumour had it that Mackenzie King had at least one of the Pats stuffed and mounted after its death, but this is untrue. The rumour, however, is so close to what appears to be the truth that it is often repeated as if true. A difference that makes no difference.

Three Irish Terriers. Three dogs named Pat. No taxidermy involved whatsoever. Séances to commune with the dead, however, were involved, including Mackenzie King’s desire to speak with Pat (the dead one) as well as the likes of his long-dead mother and Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister.

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2. Barbara Streisand revealed last week that she had her Coton de Tulear, Samantha, cloned. She named her new, clone(d) dogs Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet (they wear red and purple ribbons, respectively, so that you can tell them apart). Streisand also has another dog, another Coton de Tulear, named Miss Fanny.

Miss Fanny is a distant cousin of the first dog, Samantha.

The more things change.

Three Coton de Tulears. One dog (Samantha), two clones of dog (Miss Scarlet, Miss Violet), another a cousin or some such relation (Miss Fanny).

Actually, four dogs were cloned from the first, Samantha. The runt of the litter died, the other clones – not Miss Scarlet and Miss Violet – were given away (five dogs, according to Streisand, would have been too much to handle and Miss Fanny was there to stay). Cloning costs a lot, it certainly does, but Streisand certainly has it.

***

3. Lisa Simpson’s first cat, Snowball, was hit by a car (a Chrysler driven by the mayor’s druken brother, Clovis). She named her second cat Snowball II. When Snowball II was hit by a car (in this case, Dr. Hibbert’s SUV) and killed, Lisa adopted a new cat, Snowball III, who promptly drowned in a fish tank, and led her to get another cat, Coltrane, who jumped out a window and died. Springfield’s Crazy Cat Lady (Dr. Eleanor Abernathy) eventually threw a cat at Lisa, who decided to keep it. She also decided to name it Snowball II to save money on a new collar and cat dish.

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Five cats, four named Snowball.

Now. We know that Snowball II (the first one, a black cat) did not look like Snowball I (a white cat, although he sometimes appears as if grey), and that Snowball III did not look like Snowball I or either of the Snowballs II – was, in fact, an entirely different (looking) cat (brown/orange with medium rather than short hair). We also know that Snowball II (the second one) looks identical to Snowball II (the first one).

Coltrane should have been Snowball IV (at least, he could have been), but wasn’t.

Snowball II (the second one) is and is not Snowball IV, which is and is not Snowball II (the first one).

Lisa once tried to resurrect Snowball I via the dark arts. It didn’t work: instead, she and her brother, Bart, ended up unleashing a veritable army of undead upon Springfield, including the likes of Zombie George Washington, Zombie Einstein and Zombie Shakespeare. Too bad. It should have worked.

Try, and try again.

***

To Conclude:

An Irish Terrier, a Coton de Tulear and a shorthair Cat walk into a bar.

“Give us the usual,” they say.

“You don’t have to tell me,” says the bartender. “You’ve been around here before. But are you sure just the usual this time?”

The Irish Terrier looks away, the Coton de Tulear cocks its head, the Cat narrows its eyes but does not blink.

“Make it a double,” it says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Celebrity, Change, Dogs, People, Pets, Philosophy