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Interpreting Dog Thoughts….Or, Why I’m One Bark Away from Being a Crazy Dog Lady

1 Aug

I had to take my dog Mona Lisa to the vet the other day and because I am a mystical, empathetic, imaginative person, I could hear every little thought that ran through her head.

Leaving the house:

Oh boy! We’re going somewhere without the other dogs! I’m special! I always knew it! Hurry! Hurry! FASTER.

In the car:

Are you sure I can’t drive? I want to drive. Here, I’ll just…..hey! I don’t want to be in the backseat! Hey! Hey! I don’t want to be back here! Hey–oh! You put the window down! You know, there’s nothing better than sticking your head out and….ahhhhhhhhhh. 

Driving up my grandma’s street:

Oh boy, we’re going to Grandma’s house! I love Grandma’s house! How many cookies do you think she’ll give me? Oh, I can’t wait! First I’m going to lick her feet, and then I’m going to lick her face, and then I’m going to sit on her lap, and then…..hey! Wait! You didn’t turn! Grandma’s house is back there! Oh no. Where are we going? Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. Oh Dog. Where are you taking me? WHERE??

Almost at the vet’s:

Oh Dog. I know where we’re going. Oh no. Oh please. Hey. Let me out! Let me out! I’m not going back to that place! Don’t ignore me! I’m back here! Turn around! 

In the waiting room:

Oh Dog oh Dog oh Dog oh Dog. Hey, listen, I know I don’t always come when you call me. I’ll do better. Just take me home. I’ll be good, I swear. Please! 

When someone else walked in the room:

Hey! Hey you! Do you want  a dog? I’m a really good dog! I’ll go home with you, no problem. Oh, her? No, I’ve never seen her before in my life. Just take me home, handsome. 

When the vet came out to take her to a back room:

Ahhhhh! Stay away from me! Devil! Monster! Cat! Get back! You–Girl! I will never forgive you for this! Never! Never!  Are you LEAVING? Are you just going to LEAVE me here? Come back here! Come back here this minute!

Dogs Who Heal and English Majors Who Wield Needles

20 Jun

My family suffered a major loss last December when my aunt passed away from cancer related to Fanconi Anemia. She was my mom’s younger sister and, in all the ways that matter, my big sister. She was one of those people who make friends instantly and she had an enthusiasm for every aspect of life. She fancied herself a matchmaker and was the one who arranged my first date—an unremarkable occasion with a boy who didn’t have much of a sense of humor but helped me out of my jacket and opened doors. (Gentlemanly acts = 10 points.) She cooked legendary spaghetti dinners and had a kitchen policy of “the more, the merrier.” She was thoughtful, vibrant, beautiful, charming, and funny. When other family members call me “Little Lynn,” I consider it the grandest of compliments.

Before she passed away, my aunt made my mom promise to take care of her two dogs, Lucy and Molly. Of course my mom wouldn’t have dreamed of saying no to her request, but we were a little concerned because we already had two dogs, Mona Lisa and Max. Besides the sheer idea of the numbers (four dogs!?), I was sure there would be some doggy politics when we merged the two households. I was predicting canine power plays and a very un-Brady atmosphere. The miracle? They all love each other! Sure, they occasionally get a little jealous or want their own space, but when they first met? Oh the tails, they were a-wagging. And if happiness is a warm puppy (and it is, according to Charlie Brown), then we’ve got four times the happy.

Lucy and Molly have made a really sad time in our lives a little easier–it’s a riot to see all four dogs together, and they are so loving and so loveable. Lucy is a clown with a big personality (you might recall that she doesn’t like chickens) and it’s easy to be drawn in by her big eyes and long tongue. Molly, however, has a special spot in all our hearts. She was Lynn’s constant companion, both before and during her illness. Towards the end, when my aunt was forced to stay in bed, Molly never left her side. She wasn’t interested in food, especially if it meant leaving her person. She wasn’t interested in going outside, and had to be forcibly carried out of the room for trips to the backyard. And when Lynn finally died, Molly wouldn’t leave her bed. The priest who came to give last rights did so while Molly looked on, strong and regal. At one point during the blessings, to our horror, she started licking Lynn’s face. We were embarrassed that Father Brady witnessed what we felt was an undignified (and a little bit yucky) scene, but he just stroked Molly. “She’s just saying goodbye.”

When times of great crisis arise, humans often fall short of being true compassionate forces of good. Neighbors may tut-tut at your misfortune, but go about their lives. Family members might fail to rally, and instead be consumed by denial or selfishness. Sometimes friends, though well-meaning, don’t know how to help and issue vague promises. “Anything I can do…” they say, leaving you to spin their helplessness into gold. “That’s so sweet of you” and “I’ll be sure to call”—this is the dance you’re forced to perform, and it requires certain expected words and strained smiles.

Dogs can’t run errands. They can’t drive to doctor appointments or call the deceased’s friends and relatives to deliver bad news and pass along funeral details. Their power is quiet and steady. Their inaction is, in fact, a monumental action. It’s amazing what a cold nose on the hand or the presence of a warm doggy body can do. When they’re needed, dogs are there—and that is everything.

Molly was sick recently. The vet performed a series of tests while she trembled and looked to me for assurances that he wasn’t evil. (The jury’s still out.) Kidney disease was the tentative verdict, and major dehydration was a side-effect and major problem. We were given bags of nutrient-rich water, needles, and instructions on how to inject Molly in the neck twice a day. That was a few weeks ago, and until now, it’s been my mom who did the actual dirty work. While I prepped our makeshift medical station and held Molly, my mom played doctor to my nurse. (Although, perhaps that should be reversed—whenever I’m in a hospital, it always seems to me that nurses are doing more than doctors…) This suited me well, since it’s a role I’m comfortable playing. In 7th grade, when it was time to dissect earthworms and frogs, I was more than happy to sit back and let my partner do the actual cutting. I took notes like a trooper and drew detailed, vivid drawings of the internal workings of Kermit and pals—but I’m fairly certain that the only time I touched the tray holding the unfortunate creature was to move it away from my notebook. (Ewww, slime.) Like a privileged noblewoman with unworked, callous-free hands, I did not deign to get involved in the dissection. My fingers were made to hold pencils, not scalpels.

My mom’s out of town right now, so it falls to me to give Molly her injections. The vet has cut it down to every other day, which is a small blessing because I’m enough of a panic-stricken mess. I’ve never minded getting shots. That’s not to say that I enjoy injections or that I like to watch the actual process, but I don’t cry or freak out or anything. Imagine my surprise to discover that the idea of giving a shot gives me the heebie-jeebies on steroids. Yesterday, I sat staring at the needle that I was supposed to stick Molly with. It’s as big as a darning needle, with a nasty point that makes me woozy. “But I’m an English Major!” I wailed. “I can’t do this!”

My grandma, who had agreed to assist me by holding Molly, rolled her eyes. “So now you’re an English Major who gives dogs shots. Hurry up.” I pinched a hunk of skin on Molly’s neck, trying to find a fleshy place to stick her. But the idea of poking that darn darning needle into her body made me let go. “I don’t even sew!” I protested, as if that’s a prerequisite for this sort of thing. “I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t.”

“Do it do it do it do it!” Grandma said.

I have to tell you, I instinctively shut my eyes as I moved the needle closer to Molly. “Are your eyes closed?” Grandma asked, appalled. “Open your eyes! For God’s sake—would you want a doctor to operate on you with his eyes closed?” So, I forced myself to watch the needle disappear into Molly’s fur and feel the icky popping resistance as it pierced her body.

We can do amazing things when it comes down to the wire. A mother can find the strength to lift a car off her trapped baby. A pilot can land a plane in emergency conditions. An English major can wield a needle and move out of her comfort zone with eyes wide open. A niece can make a small effort to pay back the miracle dog who brought peace to her dying aunt.

Molly seems to be doing much better. She’s very perky and vocal. She even played with a squeaky toy for a while last night. Still, tomorrow it will be time for another shot to the neck and the trauma will begin again. I should probably start doing deep-breathing exercises now.


Everyday Counts

2 Jun

Today, I got frustrated about work and life and left 1 almost-incoherent message for a friend of mine. Luckily, true friendship means never having to say “what the hell did you say in your message? You make no sense” and she called back quickly, and with a lot of sympathy. 

I had 2 cups of coffee. 

I tripped 3 times. Once, over my computer cord. Once, over a dog. And again, apparently, over my own feet.

I received 4 phone calls from telemarketers. You can congratulate me, because I won a fabulous trip, became eligible for lower car insurance  and mortgage payments, and was selected to participate in a brief survey. I know, some people have all the luck.

I ate 5 yogurt-covered pretzels. I know it was exactly 5 because that’s how many I took out of the package before putting it away. (Then, to reward myself for having such good pretzel control, I had a cookie.)

I checked my email mid-morning and had 6 new messages. My Amazon order had been shipped. My saved job search didn’t have any good news. Four emails were from work–I needed to make changes to things I had written because the clients thought there should be a lot more information included. I spent the next few hours cramming more details into a 200-ish word limit. Torture.

I went to get something out of my car and found the street lined with vehicles. There were two hybrids, three Old Person cars (clunky tanks and tanky clunkers), one convertible and one mo-ped. That’s right, 7 vehicles. I stood there pondering them for awhile. Was someone having a party? Our only neighbors are elderly retired folks or young, professional parents with young, well-behaved kids. Besides, it was the middle of a Thursday afternoon, there was no professional sports game on television, and it wasn’t a major or minor holiday. I’m thinking that the older couple who live across the street from us were having a get-together–but just think about the range of personalities that must have been there, judging from the car types.

I hid all of the squeaky dog toys in the house. Yes, there are 8 of them–two for each dog. I know it was kind of cruel to take away their toys, but the sound of multiple squeakers being squeaked out of sync got to me. I was like a twitchy, paranoid, crazy person. The squeaky noises came from under beds, in closets, under my chair. I would look down, and there was a toy on my foot. (Lucy often puts her toy there as if to say “Look, I am making it really easy for you to play with me. I’m just going to leave this riiiiiiight here.) I went around gathering toys like the Grinch and I’m not sorry. (I gave them back eventually–how can you resist puppy dog eyes?)

I found 9 socks without mates in a pile in our spare room. This bothers me a lot, because I have no idea where the rest could be. I put these poor lost souls in a drawer but I’m pretty positive that I’ll forget they’re there, and then the cycle will begin again. It’s enough to make you believe in sock-stealing trolls. 

Our dog Molly has been sick and had to stay at the vet’s overnight last night. (More details on that later.) My mom and I were 10 minutes late picking her up, but then they were about 10 minutes late letting us in to see her. Poor thing was trembling like a leaf. For the car ride home, I wrapped her in a blanket like a little hairy baby and she stared at me the whole time. You were twenty minutes late, her eyes said. Dogs can count, you know.

Molly, post vet

What Are You, Chicken?

22 Apr

Lucy: One Tough Chick

There are chickens in the neighborhood. I don’t know where they are, or even which house is hosting them, but I can hear them cluck-clucking when I stand in our backyard. I’m mildly curious as to why someone has chickens and mildly concerned that they’re being kept in the backyard of a semi-suburban home and not on a nice farm somewhere. But as I’m only mildly anything, the chickens haven’t really bothered me too much.

Lucy, on the other hand, is losing it.

Lucy is one of our dogs. She’s a talking dog and a haiku poet, but she’s also a wannabe huntress. She chases birds with all the gusto of a creature that doesn’t know that birds can fly. She let’s squirrels know, in no uncertain terms, that they are not welcome. She pounces on flies and blades of grass with every ounce of her seven-ish pounds. And she absolutely cannot figure out the clucking. She doesn’t know where it’s coming from and, since I highly doubt she’s ever seen a chicken, she doesn’t know what sort of animal is responsible for the noise. The poor thing spent most of yesterday afternoon running back and forth on one side of the yard, her little head darting right and left, and barking frantically. Ironically, she looked like a chicken with its head cut off. After a while she sniffed the whole perimeter of the yard, came up fowl-less, and settled down near the fence to cry forlornly whenever she heard a cluck and look at me meaningfully. Can’t you hear that? Alien noise!! Why are you just sitting there?

My grandma says I’m getting boring because the only thing I talk about is the dogs. Well, it just happens that my dogs are fascinating and adorable and full of character. And when you’ve been spending as much time at home as I have, you end up mimicking Jane Goodall and collecting dog stories. Besides, I’d argue that the only things I talk about is my dogs and my grandma (the proof is in the pudding, er, blog posts)…but then, she probably wouldn’t think that was as boring. Anyway, the reason why I was so interested in Lucy’s confusion is because I sympathize. It must be distressing to know that something new and strange is nearby, but not know exactly where or what it is. For all she knows, that clucking is coming from a tyrannosaurus rex-sized foe. (Actually, I seem to remember that chickens are descended from dinosaurs–it’s amazing what information the brain keeps–so maybe that’s not such a stretch.) If you think about it, Lucy’s got the right idea when it comes to the chickens. Instead of being scared, she’s itching to find the little mother cluckers. She seems genuinely appalled that I am content to sit back, rather than investigate the noise. As someone who has screwed up fight or flight instincts, I find it encouraging. Yeah, that’s right, I’m finding admirable qualities in my dog.

Oh, and stay tuned for unrelated-to-dogs posts. Not that I agree with grandma (at least not completely), but I don’t want my words to get repetitive or predictable or (oh my dog) uninteresting. In the meantime, I think I’ll go watch Lucy come to terms with the world.

Woof.

If My Dogs Wrote Haikus

13 Apr

I’ve tried to train you
but still, you sit on my couch
No! Bad human! bad!

 

You smell like a dog.
You smell like another dog.
Scoundrel! Traitor! Slut!

 

I dream of running
of chasing squirrels and such
Wake me if you dare.

 

We’re out for a walk
Look! Here comes another dog.
My sidewalk! All mine!

 

You’ve been gone so long!
It’s been years and years and years.
Now, the world is right.


Noise! I hear a noise!

Do you hear it? Do you? Huh?
Why do you shush me? 

 

Don’t insult me, please.
That dog is just on t.v
I know that, you fool.

 

My bowl is empty.
Your plate is full of good food.
The universe sucks.

 

I have a big day.
Nap, bark, eat, play, nap, nap, nap
Whew! Workaholic!

“I Have Just Met You and I Love You”

10 Mar

"As soon as that shutter clicks, I'm attacking."

Short post today, but I hope you’ll agree that in this case, a collection of cute puppy pictures is worth a thousand words (or at least a couple hundred). When I read that the floating house from Pixar’s Up had been recreated by National Geographic and flown across California’s High Desert, I was tickled pink. Up is one of my favorite Pixar movies, so I love the idea that its iconic, fantastic flying house could become a reality. (As a person with a severe math phobia, I’m also really impressed that these people were able to do the calculations required to pull this off.) Apparently, to stick to the movie’s premise, the recreated house even contained two human riders and a dog! (No word on whether the dog was asked if he wanted to float 10,000 feet in the air.)

Part of the reason that movie is so much fun is its talking dog Dug. I can watch that scene where he first appears over and over because the actor who voices Dug and the writers who created him got a dog’s personality so spot-on. “My name is Dug and I have just met you and I love you!”

So, in honor of this imagination-come-to-life moment, I decided to recreate Up in a different way.  I give you: talking dogs. 

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