Category Archives: Dogs

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

Encounters Both Mundane & Strange (a.k.a. Midnight Neighbours)

Stephen and I have taken to taking late-night walks because the dog cannot (possibly will not) walk in the ungodly daytime summer heat.

Over the course of these past weeks and months, I’ve come to notice certain neighbours: Midnight Neighbours, who seem to only come out at night to do their various neighbour/nighttime things.

(Midnight being, of course, a name. I don’t always see them at Midnight, and they do come out at other times of the day. Midnight just sets the context and is specific to my POV).

(Also: “Midnight Neighbours” seems both descriptive and cool).

(Doesn’t it?)

 

1. Green Bin Hilda

Her name may not be Hilda. I don’t know for sure what her name is, but I once heard someone call out to her from her bungalow and the name sounded something like “Hilda.”

Lit up by the awful yellow streetlight, GBH’s seemingly disembodied head can be seen hovering in the corner of the front window facing the street. She watches. She’s a watcher.

She is also a rummager.

Twice now on garbage days, after Stephen, the dog and I walked well past her house, GBH rushed outside and across the street so that she could take a peek inside the green bins left out in the night for pick up in the morning.

(Mind you, the city’s green bins are built to deter raccoons: to open them, you have to grab a black handle that juts out from top and turn it just so.)

I watched the watcher. She scanned the contents of the bins, moved an item or two around, nodded approvingly, shut the lid and then walked back across the street and into her own house.

We’ve never spoken about it, GBH and I, and us. We’ve never spoken, GBH and I, and us, and eye contact has been spotty at best.

Still: why?

Why those bins, Hilda? Just those bins, Hilda? I have so many questions, though I admit they are only variations of the same.

Why, Hilda? How come?

Oh. And also: Hilda, would you ever approve of the contents of my green bin?

Could you?

 

2. The Sculptor

The Sculptor is a rather affable guy decked out in ripped jeans who plays one-man street hockey with a tennis ball and a makeshift stick that is too short for his tall frame, causing him to chase the ball with a practiced hunch and shuffling gait. He never falls.

I have never encountered him sober. He typically has a Bud Light in hand and, when he is not busily engaged in street hockey, he will raise it to toast you as you pass his property, which a lot of people must do because it lies on a direct path to transit.

Other times, he is working.

There are elabourate rock “sculptures” strewn all about his otherwise overgrown front yard: squat objets d’art of stacked river rocks that strike me somehow as being a gathering of disenchanted “rockmen.” A union meeting perhaps? Or maybe some sort of townhall meeting for sexist quartz and granite. Whatever is going on, The Sculptor can often be seen moving the rocks/men here and there; adding to them, taking things away or incorporating the occasional wind-chime or hubcap among their accumulated masses acquired from who knows where.

Once, while I was checking my phone in front of his house, he yelled at me from somewhere inside:

“NO PICTURES. DELETE! DELETE!”

He must have seen the light against the darkness of the streets. Or maybe he too was a disembodied head in a the window. Hard to tell, because the streetlamp by The Sculptor’s house is busted.

I wonder what my face must have looked like, illuminated by the screen of my smartphone.

It has never occurred to me to take a picture of the rockmen, though I admit it does not surprise me that he would get riled up at the prospect of anyone doing that. The Sculptor’s sculptures are his and his alone.

 

3. Basketball Shorts

Basketball Shorts is not young, not small and not an athlete. His clothing is merely more of a uniform consisting of an assortment of tank tops and the same pair of basketball shorts, the kind that just skim the tops of his the crooked domes that make up his kneecaps.

His primary function seems to be that of sitting in front of his house, on a too-small faded plastic chair, making intense eye-contact with passersby. He lives 2 streets across and down from us and I appreciate the distance, truly.

The other night, at around 11:15PM, we passed him walking our dog as he was walking his, a tiny Yorkie. He continued on his way and we on ours, walking past his house, to the corner and then turning to go down the opposite block. Stephen and I were far along down the block, many large houses away, when we paused in our conversation at the sound of some distant babbling.

A man’s voice – B.S. on the corner, at the intersection we had left as we turned away from his block. We couldn’t see his face. We could barely make out his form, but as his outline is quite distinctive I’m sure it was him, there, in the flesh. Him and no other. He no longer had the dog (or at least, I didn’t see it).

To get to where he was, he must have backtracked, gone past his home to end up at that corner.

He was frustrated – angry even – and talking to…who?

Us?

We were far enough away from him by this time that we would be little more than vague figures on a dark street. Had he gone out looking for us (because he would have had to, not knowing our intended path)? I didn’t see anybody else there, in his general vicinity, but then why talk at somebody’s back from a distance if you’re trying to make a point to them, whatever that point may be?

“I saw you…you moved the pylon! I know where you live! This is ridiculous! Pylon there – You moved…pylon! Pylon! Ridiculous!”

Code? These peculiar words were carried to us by the wind, and were the only ones to reach us from his remote though incessant chatter. Although, to his credit, there are some pylons set up around his block due to some city work being undertaken there this summer. He had something there at least.

Know where you live? A threat? I doubt very much he knows where we live, have never seen him on our street, though in addition to living 2 streets across and down from us, he also appears to live in moments like these.

Or perhaps not. His voice had the quality of a broken reed jammed into the mouthpiece of a rusted saxophone: it sounded thin, out-of-practice, forced. He, being the most able (or willing) of our Midnight Neighbours to wander the furthest from his house, seems also, unlike Green Bin Hilda and The Sculptor, to be the most unsettled because of it.

Another possibility: he wasn’t talking to anyone – no one – at all. Maybe that, in the end, is where he really lives, speaking of bringing things home.

 

 

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Filed under City Life, Dogs, People, Relationships, Routines

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

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.

William-Lyon-MacKensize-King

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.

***

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.

snowball_1_in_heaven-e1520879201574.png

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

Book B-I-N-G-O (Part 1)

My interest in doing anything diminished by something like 98% whenever I’m specifically asked or told to do it.

Perhaps I am a contrarian, but I doubt it.

This tendency, this character trait, this human flaw, whatever you want to call it, thankfully does not interfere with my work life, which makes me a Good Employee. For all intents and purposes.

Maybe not a contrarian then, but simply a pragmatist.

Whatever it takes.

Look. I tried to get along with my office mates (I try to get along with everyone!) but it isn’t always easy or convenient (or wise) to do so. Offices especially can be strange environments – few resources (promotions, photocopying privileges, pens & paper) makes for some intense competition and, in my case, produced some rather toxic rivalries. Everyone seemed to know this, but that isn’t the same as saying it was acknowledged, openly or otherwise.

Or is it just me?

(It’s not just me.)

*****

There are things people did to ease the tension: some brought in cookies and candy, others organized office potlucks, a few nominated themselves (or were nominated) as to go-to people to for those wishing to celebrate their birthdays at the office (after work hours, and we all had to chip in for the cake).

There were few birthdays at the office.

For a while we were allowed, encouraged even, to bring dogs in to work (“Pet dogs,” reminded our boss, Tucson,* pale, immaculate finger wagging in the air, adding his usual linguistic garnish as a way to stay at the head of the decision, though it may have been a directive rather than description, it was hard to tell with him).

But the dogs quickly became bored, then destructive, then somewhat belligerent (they could sense it too, the tension, and were getting spoiled from the cupcakes people fed them under their desks).

A NO DOGS policy was instituted.

For a while after that, there was nothing, save the baked goods and the potlucks and birthdays as rare as black, winged unicorns (or promotions).

Then came BOOK BINGO.

*****

Phoenix came up with the idea, and it seemed a good one. It seemed inventive and sound and, most of all, harmless. We were, after all, a group of smart, educated people, who often professed our love of books in the narrow, sagging hallways of the ramshackle building that housed our cubicles, on the tacky carpeting that ran beneath our shared workspaces like an oil slick; in the upstairs kitchenette with the broken microwave. Some of us were even in book clubs.

Book clubs, even!

*****

The categories listed on the BOOK BINGO sheets that Phoenix printed out for us seemed interesting and (dare I say it?), fun:

 

B-3: A DYSTOPIAN NOVEL.

I-5: A GRAPHIC NOVEL.

N-2: A BOOK WITH A BLUE COVER.

G-1: A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2015.

O-4: A BOOK WRITTEN BY A FEMALE AUTHOR.*

 

“Where’s the harm?” I said.

And Phoenix smiled.

*****

In the end, five of us (it was a small office, despite everything), signed on for what was already being hailed (by Phoenix, ever the ringmaster, ever the MC) as The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of 2015 (pronounced “twenty-fifteen”).

Because not only had we agreed to play, we would play big: no rows or columns of B or I, or the like or that ilk. Not even impressive diagonals would do. The winner would be declared the first to complete the entire BOOK BINGO sheet (all twenty-five squares, minus the star in the middle that marked the free space). The good space.

The prize would be bragging rights (or cake if we all wanted to chip in for it).

*****

Bragging rights I wanted.

Bragging rights I understood. Bragging rights were how you got around a place like the place where I worked, how you carved out a space for yourself and kept it that way.

I got books out from the library. I took gathered books that I had purchased from second-hand stores and garage sales and had always meant to read, sometime IN THE FUTURE, when the time was right. I made piles and lists. Books towered on my nightstand. They littered the floor, crept onto the bed and invaded my dreams.

I consulted BOOK BINGO sheet, and took a closer look at the categories carefully picked out by Phoenix:

 

N-1: A BOOK PUBLISHED THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN.

O-2: A BOOK BY SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE.

N-5: AN IMPORTANT BOOK.

O-3: YOUR. FAVOURITE. BOOK.

 

And it hit me.

Each category – it asked a lot. Each would give the people I saw every day – and really only because I was paid to be there (seeing them was, in a way, incidental to being there) – a little something of myself.

It hit me hard.

*****

(Was this a bad thing? Was it bad? It didn’t seem good. Not like it mattered at that point. I was in, do you understand? I was making progress, even.)

*****

I remember thinking: I am a Good Employee. I can do this. This is good.

Besides, I reasoned, maybe I was being silly. Perhaps I was overreacting in order to compensate for the state of things. Seeing ulterior motives and indulging in paranoid fantasies where there was only collegiate goodwill and a genuine, concentrated desire to connect. I was seeing entitlements where there were only efforts to create a more open, friendly, happy place to work.

A BOOK BY SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE.

But then there was never enough pens & paper.

AN IMPORTANT BOOK.

There was never enough to go around, if certain people needed it.

YOUR. FAVOURITE. BOOK.

And I was not certain people.

… TO BE CONTINUED

 

________________________________________________

* Not real name. All names, and possibly genders, have been changed to obscure the identities of the very real people that lurk just behind those identities.

* This required a special category???

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, Dogs, Employment, Jobs, People, Pets, Places, Politics, Relationships, THE FUTURE

Time, And Time Again

 
“You’re sadder about your dog dying than you are about your grandpa dying. It’s a little messed up.”

My friend said this to me as we walked across campus, on our way home from Political Thought and Theory.

It was winter. A wet grey day. His words echoed in my head, but all I said was “well…”

Well what?

When my parents got my dog for me, I was 9 and she died when I was 22.

Seizures, loss of motor function, dead before my final midterm that semester.

My grandpa also died when I was 22, a few months after my dog died.

Cancer, very advanced, dead before the end of that weekend.

It was a hard year.

It is a crime of nature that dogs do not live as long as we do, and when they die the loss is so immediate, so exquisite.

The loss of a person, though…in a way, it’s harder to conceive, and accept.

A whole other person, and a person no longer. A whole other universe of possibilities gone, snuffed out.

When my grandpa died, it was hard enough to try to come up from under the loss and stay ahead of it somehow.

We talked, but not often. I would have liked to get the chance to know him better.

But even that…no more!

Wrap your brain around that.

It was when my friend’s girlfriend’s parents’ dog died,[1] a few years after my dog died, a few years after my grandpa died, that I got to watch the unexpected tears well up in his eyes, the sudden bursts of sorrow, the excuses he made to leave the group and grieve in private as he tried in the weeks and months that followed her death to cope.

He loved that dog.

I loved my dog…and I loved my grandpa.

And there were so many moments during his mourning period that I almost said something to my friend, who today probably doesn’t even remember what he said to me on that grey and useless day.

Maybe now, I almost said, you know.

How easy it is to grieve for dogs.

 
 


[1] Yes.


 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Kindness of Strangers

 
I get greetings in the street all the time and this, I’ve long accepted, is not an outcome of anything specific to my being as a person, nor does it have much to do with my being as a person as it pertains to being a person walking in the street as the greetings happen overwhelmingly whenever I’m out walking with Lou.

To be completely honest about it, the greetings are overwhelmingly for Lou with – at most – a few offhand hellos and hi theres for me. I am oddly appreciative of this, since it at least relieves me of that great social burden of Small Talk with Strangers. I get to be less polite; I get away with a not insignificant rebuff of my own.

Nothing or nothing much for me?  Moving right on along!

Tit for tat.

Lou was with me the day at the Farmer’s Market with the encounter with The Man.

The St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market is a well-kept affair, refuge to bleary-eyed suburbanites, their dogs and children alike.  It’s a fine place to take the in-laws, if they’ve never been there before or haven’t been there for a Good Long Time.

It is a quaint but not without a certain flair; quaint, but not unassuming.

A double negative kind of place, with a petting zoo and buggy rides in the summer and year-round kettle corn.

You can get kale there, and baby chickens.

Handicrafts.

Meat and cheese.  Sorry.  Meats and cheeses.

You know it.

TUBS OF SAUCE? You know, you can get those too.

The Man was seated just outside the food court doors on a decorative, undoubtedly handcrafted bench.  He was clutching a bag of dog treats (you can get those at the Market too!) and scanning the passersby with his big, watery eyes. He saw Lou as we walked by and said hello to Lou, and as he said his hello to Lou, he reached deep into the bag, extracted one brown toasted treat and offered it to Lou, stopping just shy of Lou’s inquisitive doggy nose. It was a fluid, graceful motion, a well-practised almost instinct.

Seamless.

Lou backed away from the Man’s outstretched arm and open hand and retreated to his fallback position behind my legs. We backed away from him, intentions clear.

But the Man was not deterred.

Head up, big, watery eyes set to motion again, scanning, scanning, Lou and Lou’s rejection apparently totally forgotten, it didn’t take The Man long to find them: other dogs, other owners, many of whom were at first rather pleased by the attention and then rather perplexed by the situation.

For the Man, he had dog biscuits, LOTS of dog biscuits (possibly even expensive ones), but no dog.  Neither doggy hide nor doggy hair.

          Not.

A.

          One.

And no words spared for human ears; none so much as wasted.  He addressed the dogs and the dogs alone with man-sized, childish glee – “Hello little boy! Hello big girl! You a good doggy, hmmm?” – big watery eyes lighting up, for instance, when a little brown and white shih tzu pulled violently away from its wary owner and accepted a biscuit with manners that even by dog standards seemed voracious and sloppy.

The dog was happy, the man was happy, the owner, who knows? I was happy Lou refused the biscuit.

Which leads me to wonder.

How many inevitable rejections occurred that day? And for whom?

But for whom?

Looking at it from all sides, I cannot not conclude that that depends on who was really in control after all.

Dogs and all.

It knowingly nose.

The nose knows.

 

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The Cruellest Month

 
Here is how April came and went.
 
 
Twitch
 
 
The weather that day was probably lovely because I at least remember taking Louis down to the beaches before it happened, a pleasant 45-minute jaunt from the house and back.

It was as I was making dinner that I noticed the twitching; little jumps and spasms that ran up and down his legs and caused his dachshund back to bunch up in a kind of inverted “C” and forced his nose to the down to the tile even as he tried to look up at me with his eyes.  Then it passed and there he was, begging for food again.

The next day, the twitching started again.  Then it stopped.  Then there he was, getting up and down and up and down and up and down again and again and again and not being able to settle anywhere because, we later found out, it was painful for him and he was trying to figure Things out in the only way he really could…
 
 
The Saddest Place in the World
 
 
Toronto.  Home of the V-E-C, an emergency veterinary trauma centre.  With over 200 employees and over 20, 000 patients a year, the VEC is one of the busiest veterinary facilities in the country…

Going to the emergency vet is a lot like needing to buy a used Jeep that you already own from a car salesman you really want to sort of like.  But you can’t because he’s got this kind of power over you – a little condescending, nearly snide, unavoidable – and so your impression of him finally hardens to a mild contempt that you find increasingly difficult to control but surprisingly easy to suppress, considering.

It’s pretty much exactly like that.

We had been transferred to the care of Toronto’s Veterinary Emergency Clinic after two days of guesswork from another vet, who was actually kindhearted and accommodating even in the face of his spectacular and total failure to provide us with a viable diagnosis.  But that’s what referrals are for.

The VEC is a strange, strange place.  I had been there before when Lou had eaten something truly rotten in High Park and had blood coming out where blood must not ever come out.  That was a little over two years ago.

Standing there again in the foyer, the whole place smelling of ammonia and accented with watery-eyed portraits of spaniels and longhaired cats taken by a pretty good photographer, surely.  You can see grown men in tears at the VEC and women pacing outside, smoking cigarettes wedged between rigid fingertips. The first time I was there, at the VEC, I saw a small family by the doors, dressed in their Sunday best, crying silently, the boy clutching a tiny doggy bed.

I noticed they installed an aquarium since the last time, one of those flat, wide-screen tanks with the bright, impossible blue water that hang on the wall and are full of plastic articulated fish – all of it hermetically sealed from the inside out.

One less worry.

The two new vets put in charge of Louis’ care I have dubbed Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon.  Dr. Liz Lemon’s last name was something that sounded like “Lemon”. I can’t remember what his face looked like, but he had one.  It may have been unique, even, or at least I don’t remember him having a face I already know.

Not my Father.  Not the Pope.  Not Tony Soprano or Shaquille O’Neal.

Hence, Dr. Liz Lemon.

“Lizzing is a combination of laughing and whizzing.”

“And I don’t really think that it’s fair for me to be on a jury because I’m a hologram.”

Many people tend to think of crisis professionals as kind of saviours; more than hero-people who get interjected into the trauma at exactly when they need to be there.  In the moment, it’s hard enough to try to understand what’s happening. So in retrospect, maybe – maybe there are saviour-y people among us – saving us from circumstance as only fully trained and appropriately compensated personnel can.

So Dr. So-and-So was maybe not a hero, and maybe he was, but above all else he was a hard-nosed professional.

  • Clipped.
  • To. The. Point.
  • Detail Oriented.

He personality itemized the bill for us, which was, in its way, extremely thoughtful.

Amazing.

Everything on this costs money.

It was clear that the relationship between Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon was one of superior/subordinate, with Dr. Liz Lemon, I imagine, fetching pricey lattes for each of them during every shift even though, come to think of it, he never had a coffee habit before he started at the VEC…

Even heroes have to start somewhere.

Actually, they film a reality show at the VEC called ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre (narrated by the disembodied voice of singer/songwriter Jan Arden).  It’s a lot like the show ER from a few years ago, but with animals as patients instead of people and so much more thoughtful contemplation of indistinct x-rays. Having watched ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre a few times in that dead TV hour between 7:00PM – 8:00PM, I felt as though the voice should have been there during my episode too, setting up procedures and an embedding motives. Moving the plot along.
 
 
Four Options That Were Really Three That Was One Half of Everything 
 
 
*OPTION 1: It’s a compressed disc, a common aliment of the long-backed dachshund.  If treated immediately, the dog will return to 90% his old self. Pay for this.

*OPTION 2:  It’s meningitis, another genetic propensity of those wonderful dachshunds.   Treat this right now and the dog may survive, after a fashion.  Pay for this.

*OPTION 3:  It’s *OPTION 1 and *OPTION 2.  Pay for both.

*OPTION 4:  It could be one or the other, and treating one will not preclude the other if the other is in fact what is really happening.  Pay for both.

There was also the ***PERM-OPTION***: put the dog down and end it all.

If he had been untreatable and/or incurable pain then, yes, it would have been a considered Option.

My emptied savings account and newfound willingness to dance for money says that it was otherwise and that we, accordingly, chose otherwise.
 
 
Happy Birthday(s)
 
 
Stephen and I have our birthdays in April.  How about that?
 
 
Operation Option 4 (a.k.a. “Operation Disembodied Voice of Singer/Songwriter Jan Arden”)
 
 
A day after Option 4 was executed, Dr. Liz Lemon called to say:

“At this point, we feel it’s best for Louis to come home for his recovery instead of continuing his stay with us. He didn’t sleep at all last night. He just sat there…staring at us with his eyes.”

Later, I found out that Lou had quickly earned a reputation as perhaps one of the most difficult dogs the VEC has had to deal with in recent memory.

Good boy!
 
 
The Dog Is Leaking 
 
 
“…the fact is that dogs put on IVs can leak urine for days after the IV had been removed.  Possibility the leaking is from a urinary tact infection, which we neglected to warn you might happen after the kind of surgery your dog has had but, hey, we’re telling you now.  Just watch it for a while and we’ll do something if it persists.”
 
 
No Laundry
 
 
We had no laundry.  For the four-to-five days Lou was leaking, we could not do laundry because the plumbing in our building was backed up.  We were also paranoid of leaving the house in case something happened and we needed to go back to the VEC (a $60 round trip by taxi that required both of us to handle Lou, given his condition), so going out to shop for diapers and pee pads and whatever was not an Option.

Our solution?  Milk the dog.  Try to catch the drips before they hit the carpet or very soon after they hit he carpet.  Um, we used a lot of towels, turning them and hand-washing them in the bathtub in a constant cycle of >>> HOLY OH MY FUCK WHAT ELSE???

(what else?)

Our dog needs a towel boy.

They tell us now it tree roots that were blocking the pipes and oh my god!  Right now! Look how many fucks I give.
 
 
1 +1 = 0.5 Medication
 
 
The following transpired early Monday morning because getting an answer on Sunday evening is all but possible save for the Lord.  

(Lights up:  CINDY is sitting hunched over at the kitchen table, leaning heavily on her hand as her right arm rests on the surface, her other hand jamming an outdated Sony Ericsson “brick” into her ear.  The voice of DR. LIZ LEMON can be heard crackling intermittently from the phone.  From the window in front of CINDY’s tired form we can see that it’s, let say, overcast?)

CINDY:  “Yes.  I’m sorry I didn’t notice it earlier, but it seems Lou only has half of the little pills he needs for the pain.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (a tinge of condescension, nearly snide in his voice): “Right. ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 8 hours for 5 days.  Then give ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 12 hours for 5 days.  OK?  That’s 25.”

CINDY: (clam, persistent given task at hand):  “O-K.  Yeah.  But he has to take TWO of those a day, so it should be, like, 50.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (not even slightly mollified):  “Oh. I see.  Well, I’ll write it up and you can just come down here and get it.  I’ll have it waiting at reception.  Don’t worry.  You won’t have to pay.”

CINDY: (who has already paid for the full prescription and realizing that the next three hours will be devoted to crossing the city to pick up the pills and, more importantly, that well-timed witty retorts are not something you can gainfully trade off on in real life):  “Thanks. So.  Much.”
 
 
Summer Plans
 
 
“Hey!  Aren’t you guys going away in, like, a few weeks?”

“We are no longer going away due to total lack of funds.  Spare change?”

“Huh?  What?  Whyyy?”

“Here is how April came and wen…you know what, man?  Just read the blog.”

“What blog?”

My blog.”

“You have a blog?”

“Yes.”

“Is it any good?”
 
 
A Jan Arden Voiceover Is Going on Now
 
 
After a harrowing few days, full of tears and woe and heart wrenching decisions, Louis Jefferson Phan was finally able to go home. Thanks to the skill and care of Doctor So-and-So and Liz Lemon was there too and because of the well-motivated work of the staff VEC, the future looking bright for the little dog that could.
 
 
…In Other Words:
 
 
We’re back to being around even now, minus all of the above.

Blessings!

 
 

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Filed under Dogs, Interruptions

A One Of Those

 
Collections horrify me, a little, sometimes.  I’m not entirely sure why.  But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because of what they imply.  Questions of what, (sometimes) how, and why always why are always implied.  The kind that tend to zero in on matters of taste, identity and (especially) pleasure and in its many, many connotations.

(Loneliness is probably in there too).

Thimbles or belt buckles, Fabergé eggs or skin flakes, the answers vary but the questions remain the same.

Why? Why? Why?

I have tendencies that lead me to collect but I try not to collect, despite myself.  I don’t always succeed.  Being broke helps less than you may think, but it helps. Sliver lining.

Sometimes, though, collections are thrust upon you.  They just happen.

I am having a collection thrust upon me happening.

It started with this:

Jealous of the dog.  That's a new one.

This is what a dog’s life looks like. If he’s doing it right.

It – he – is a wirehaired dachshund (as far as I can tell and just to simplify everything already).   Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, came more.  And then they came at intervals: Christmases, birthdays especially.

And more.  So much more.

Not pictured: the one-foot chocolate dachshund that Stephen’s mother gave us one Easter, every birthday card from the last seven years with a dachshund on it (in other words, almost all of them), and the book I got for Christmas about the lady detective agency that had a picture of a dachshund on the back cover.

Perhaps eventually it will become a tradition.  A bon-a-fide ritual coming at me from the outside, needing really only my tacit permission in order to do what it is doing to me.

Am I complaining?  Not exactly.  But the next time I move, I’ll wonder, you know.  I’ll wonder about these all these little dogs and whether I have truly become a One of Those people:

  • A Dog Lady
  • A Dachshund Enthusiast[1]
  • A Doxie Lover
  • The Weiner Dog Girl
  • Der Hund Frau auf der Straße!
  • The Hot Dog Queen[2]

I’ll admit it is shaping up to be a quite handsome collection.  Beyond that, what to say about it, my/The Collection?  Does it give me a sense of pride or any kind of satisfaction?

Actually, I’m kind of flattered, which is probably closest to the truth.

 


[1] In particular I’d be a dachshund enthusiast, but more generally this would make me a “breed person”.  Not just a dog lady but a one of those people who for whatever reason(s) attach or devote themselves (sometimes entirely) to certain breeds of dogs, nicknames (i.e. “Doxie”, “American Gentlemen”, “Merry Cocker”) and all.  At a dog show I attended one time, there was this contingent of retried people who were all West Highland Terrier enthusiasts whose aim, as far as I could tell, was to psych out the competition with their incessant cheers and catcalls (HA!).  Actually, thanks to them, I’m kind of put-off “Westies” having conflated the two in my head.  The bastards.

[2] My favourite.

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Filed under Dogs, Routines