Monday, August 28, 2017

What She Was Made For

     Many a nature film has showed me lions bringing down an antelope or wolves selecting and devouring the slowest caribou, so suppose I was as well prepared as any child of the suburbs. And yesterday my dog Tiger Lily leapt repeatedly at the porch screen, snapping her considerable jaws, until a trespassing dragonfly lay on its back on the sill, one leg twitching its last. In fact, it had only one leg. Tiger Lily couldn't know that I really like dragonflies, with those huge glinting eyes and iridescent wings. An intruder is an intruder. She has even barked furiously at the little windows next to the front door until we realized she was protecting us from the scary dried starfish whose alien arms stuck out beyond the top sill. 
     Today she caught a squirrel. She walked out with me and my bag of eggshells and banana peels to the compost bin. I was about to set the empty bag aside and get ready to play some fetch when she dropped her shredded, filthy knotted-rope toy and dashed at the big oak in the rear corner of the yard. A squirrel skittered up the trunk, as usual. Then a second one appeared. Lacking wit to climb straight up, it ran around the trunk, only a foot or so above ground, with Tiger Lily right on its tail. 
     We're pretty sure Tiger Lily is a Catahoula leopard dog. They breed them, a mix of many, in Louisiana to rout wild hogs out of the swamps. Her body shape is somewhere between a boxer and a greyhound: big chest, tiny waist, long spine. She's very fast, strong and smart. She likes people better than other dogs, and she has the brindle pattern common to the leopard dogs, in her case a tawny base with distinct, black tiger stripes. And I can easily picture her bounding through the bayou, snapping at the heels of a hog. 
     For this chase, she kept a tight radius, and, as the squirrel slowed a little on maybe the tenth circuit, she grabbed it and flung it onto the grass. Pounce, grab, shake. When it flies loose, nudge it to see whether it's playing dead, which it did a time or two, then tried to run. It didn't get far. 
     I did hope she wouldn't go full feral and try to extract its liver while I fetched the shovel. She stood guard over the corpse while I dug the deepest hole I could manage and restrained her instincts while I slid the shovel underneath, noting the teeth marks and slobber in the grey fur. Covered it, tamped down the soil and picked up her fetch toy. Normally, when she returns it to me, she shakes it until I have to say, "Yeah, I think it's dead, girl." For this session, she brought it to my feet and dropped it. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Eyes Quit

     Yesterday I spent an hour in a torpedo tube with a  jackhammer, a pile-driver and a woodpecker. MRI. It stands for Major Ruckus Inside. I got through one round of the Lord's Prayer before I became the mother in Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron. (Short story. Read it.) Halfway through, the tech slid me out to stick a needle in my arm. Vein collapsed. Switched to back of the hand. She extracted the needle when the hand started to swell and sting, but enough stuff ran in for the necessary cranial chiaroscuro. Can't wait to see the proofs.
     Keeping eyes closed during the jaunt was easy, because my right eyelid hardly opens at all, and the left is at half-mast. Two fun things are careening along side-by-side: blepharospasm and double vision. A while back, my vision suddenly doubled. While I was driving. Doc said it's common with age. (Stinking age.) Corrected it with prism lens in glasses. A year later the double vision doubled, needed twice the correction. Made him nervous. Tested me six ways to Sunday, found nothing organic, but referred me to specialist to make sure I had no bugs in the brain.
     All this time, I'd been alarming friends and family with almost constant squinting, made worse by stress. One solution, Botox, said the doc. Needles around the eyes? Um, no. But the specialist couldn't bear to watch me blepharospasming, he said, when he knew Botox could help. Nowhere near as horrible as I imagined, he and his assistant assured me. Finest needle in existence, smaller dose than cosmetic use, placed differently. No plastic face. No sweat. Seven sticks per eye, two in upper eyelids, were about as much fun as you'd expect, but Lamaze breathing got me through four childbirths, and it got me through this. Then he ordered the MRI and blood tests to spot any cysts, tumors or chips inserted by aliens to cause double vision.
     By evening, I had fever, abdominal cramps, pain across my back, nausea and general misery. About 2 a.m., I thought to ask Siri "what are side effects of medical Botox?" (She says "bottocks." Heh.) And there they were: fever, cramps, back pain, nausea, general misery. Drooping eyelids too. That started a couple days later as the first delights started to fade.
     Called the spec's office. No, no, no, said they, nobody ever gets side effects like that from this application. No patient ever has. Droopy lid isn't unheard-of, but it should be better in a week. Four days later, joke's on you, the right eyelid is lower than ever, and the left opens only halfway. I think I look like I've had a stroke, but the hubs says I only look drunk. Hey, that's a relief.
     In another couple days, the spec should have the MRI results. He will also get an earful-- an eyeful?-- about side effects.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Faults in Our Stars; Faults in Ourselves

     Michelle Malkin and friends explode in mockery over Katy Perry (a singer) seeming to suggest "no borders" and "co-existence" as answer to terrorism. "No!" shriek KP fans. "Listen to the whole interview!" I did. She was mostly incoherent about "fanbases" uniting and not being nasty to each other on Twitter-- I think-- but it was in response to a question about the bombing of an Ariana Grande (another singer) concert in England. So, MM was maybe too quick to ridicule, but it wasn't all that far-fetched, given the context and KP's use of heavily-loaded terms like "no borders" and "co-exist." Verdict: both wrong.
     Meanwhile, some are lambasting Ariana (the singer) for failing to dash to the hospital to comfort injured fans while condemning Islamist terrorism. Why does anyone think she would have anything useful to say beyond "This is horrible"? And are patients and their families sitting there asking "Where the heck is Ariana?" And just why, exactly, does anyone look for cogent political, religious or sociological analysis from people who sing and prance around in odd costumes for a living? And why do such people keep trying to give it?
     Mean-meanwhile, others berate Demi Lovato (a singer), who was accused of the sin of "cultural appropriation" for wearing her hair in dreadlocks, only they weren't dreadlocks, but they're still mad at her for failing to thrash herself with sharp barrettes over the very possibility that she might have ever even allowed the notion of dreadlocks to enter her fashionable head, and of course she wouldn't because that would be just intolerable. My head hurts. Maybe my cornrows are too tight. Anyway, a disillusioned fan illustrated what the problem is with all of this. He said Demi's flippant response was rude to "fans that rely on you to provide them an up-lifting attitude to the world." Good grief, lad, she's a performer. Provide your own attitude. 
     I recall really liking the Moody Blues. Eric Clapton. Smokey Robinson, both the Beatles and the Stones (there were militant camps back then). I might have nodded sagely to Buffalo Springfield and "There's somethin' happenin' here; what it is ain't exactly clear..." They could be pretty deep, man. But relying on any of them for anything more than cool music would have been dumb.
     It was also dumb for people to burn piles of Beatle records (those flat, round, vinyl things) after John Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus." At the time, I thought I got his point. Teenyboppers were much more likely to scream and proclaim their adoration at Beatle concerts than at church. He wasn’t claiming to be better or more important than Jesus… but he probably shouldn't have said it. And certainly no one should ask. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

No One Escapes the Cone of Shame

     Our yard is full of raised garden beds, trellises, poles and pegs and pineapples, any number of things that might slash the legs of a dog whose only speed is full tilt. When the Incredibly Speedy High-Jumping Shelter Dog got a little gouge on her ankle while chasing her Kong fetching-ball, which bounces like a Super Ball, through the far reaches, I figured I'd better find some place wider-open for our fetch sessions. I started loading dog, youngest grandchild and new Chuck-It ball launcher, a sort of atlatl for the suburban dog-owner whose arm isn't quite up to the distances this dog loves to run, into the trusty Subaru Forester and zipping off to the vast rear of our church property-- wide open, mowed, frequently played upon by school kids. 
     One day, we inadvertently crashed the school's break time, and the child-loving Tiger Lily was a hit with the students. They petted her and took turns throwing her ball. The schoolmarm pronounced her the school mascot. Great fun, until one day...
     I suppose it was a good thing no children were about when she returned from a long fetch with a gash on her leg, a good inch long, and a quarter-inch or so deep. As I moaned, "This isn't supposed to happen! There's nothing out there to cut yourself on!" she went on nudging the ball to induce another throw. Instead, I rinsed the cut with some of her drinking water and loaded up to return home. 
     "What do I do?" I asked assembled family. Husband's family dogs had never bothered with cuts; they just got hit by trucks. Son-in-law, most experienced with dogs said, "It'll be all right; I wouldn't worry about it." (Or, as they say in Wyoming, "Just rub some dirt on it.") Online dog-care sites had advice aplenty about bandaging dog wounds, and ways to keep bandages on in spite of teeth. I tried. Neosporin. Gauze. Butterfly bandages. That rubber tape stuff that sticks to itself and not skin. Finally, Sunday afternoon: Steri-strips, layer of rubber tape, rings of first-aid tape, and several more layers of the rubber stuff. She licked, but didn't chew. Only, by morning, she had somehow shifted the bandage bracelet up her leg and uncovered the hideous gaping wound, which looked for all the world like we'd cut into a rare steak to test for doneness. Where the Steri-strips went, I know not. I called the vet's office. They said to bring her in. 
     "That's quite a gash," said the vet. And here's what he would do: sedate her, clear out the "granulation" in the cut, which had been made worse by her licking, stitch it closed, and put her in a cone. The Cone of Shame. Come back in two hours. 
     I carried her collar and leash to the car. I went to Trader Joe's and bought coffee beans and cookies and mesquite-smoked almonds. I drove around to all the Poke'-stops I could think of. And after the last one, on the straightaway toward home, the heretofore distracted part of my psyche began to shout, "You are a dope. You failed that poor dog utterly. How could you think you could doctor her yourself?" And so on. Back home, I carried the shopping bag in and made ready to head back to the vet's. The hubs tried to comfort me. I had to stop him because it made me cry, as sympathetic reassurance does, and I still had to to retrieve her. 

     Back at the office, I told the doc I felt I should be wearing the Cone of Shame. Well, said he, even if you'd brought her in two days earlier, given her, ahem, reluctance to participate in medical procedures-- it took two attendants to hold her still enough to give her the anesthesia-- he might have had to do pretty much the same things anyway. I told him I felt a little less miserable. 

     She's home, with her pain meds and antibiotics, navigating the house with some difficulty. That darn cone. But her stub of a tail is wagging again. She's more reluctant than usual to let me out of her sight, because LOOK WHAT THEY DID WHEN YOU LEFT ME THE LAST TIME. I promise, girl, in future, my mommy instincts will outweigh all other concerns, and if I'd take a child with the same symptoms to the doctor, I'll take you to the doctor. Because, darn it, I love you. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sciurus Scurrilous

     My father told the story of enlisted men on an Air Force base who, when they saw a certain officer whom they disliked approaching on the sidewalk, would quickly spread out to eight or so feet apart. The officer had to return the first man's salute, the second man's, the third man's, and so on, until his arm was ready to drop off. I suspect the squirrels of Sand Lake Hills have worked out such a plan for my poor dog. "Chitter, chitter. Here she comes. Places, everyone," they chirrup. 
     Two in every yard, one devious little rodent stations itself at the tree in the right-of-way while the other slithers to the center of the front yard. Tiger Lily spots the first one and snaps into stalking mode. I take a firmer grip on the leash and remind her, "No." That's usually enough to get her past the one in the yard, but the other climbs just a foot or so up the tree and sticks its insouciant little head out at her. Instinct betrays discipline, and she lunges. I yank on the leash and blast "No!" in my most imperious tone. Now, at least, she lunges only once where she used to spin me right around for a second try at the little bleep, which is now six feet above the ground. Tiger Lily is learning. But I think the squirrels are too. Seemed like this routine repeated in every yard for a good (well, bad) half hour. You can almost hear the rodents sneering, "Na na, nanana. You're on a lee-eash."
In our back yard, it's a different story. The rats with bushy tails keep their distance. No leash. No reticence. They eat my food plants. My neck is still stiff from this morning's walk. Sic 'em, girl.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Snake in the Bucket

     Furious barking from the porch went on so long, youngest son stepped out to investigate. "Oh!" I heard him say. He came back in to report, "There's a snake on the porch. It's in a bucket." Three buckets catch rain water that blows in through the screen during our Florida frog-drownders. The third one, tucked farthest in the corner, contained a youngish black snake, maybe eighteen inches long, thrashing its tail like a turbo metronome and vibrating its tongue at full extension and top speed. Tiger Lily the Amazing Shelter Dog feinted a time or two, barked some more, and looked up at me like "What do we do with this thing?"
     The humans conferred. I grabbed a broom. No, too soft to disable the critter. Hoe? Shovel? Bloody mess on the nice blue tile? No. Something to cover the bucket? Aha. I dashed to the garage and snatched the cardboard tray from a flat of Coke from the recycle bin. Garden gloves caught my eye, and I pulled them on. No time to change out of flipflops to real shoes. Back on the porch, I advanced with the cardboard while the menfolk heroically persuaded Tiger Lily to retreat to the kitchen. The snake struck at the cardboard and flipped itself out of the bucket. Crap. 
     All manliness, the Hubs went for the long-handled grabber-thingie that usually retrieves small items that fall behind the furniture. It has two little suction cups on the end. I swear I did not roll my eyes as he crept toward the snake, made a grab and smacked his arm so hard on the corner of the cement counter that houses our grills, it instantly raised a bluish lump from a no-doubt busted blood vessel. 
Diana the hunter

My brain finally clicked on the specimen net I keep in the foyer closet for just such occasions. Really, every Floridian should have one. I slipped the business end between the bucket and the undulating body perched on the aluminum "curb" that anchors the screen. One scaly loop extended over the ledge, so I worked the net under it and nudged. The snake jumped into the net. With frogs and lizards, I squeeze the top of the net to keep the little blighters in. For a snake... even with gloves, I decided instead to swing the net back and forth to keep it from climbing out. I kept it swinging until I reached the back fence and found the silver lining to its dilapidation. Dumped from the net, the snake scooted under the fence into the domain of the obnoxious little yappy dogs which have been annoying passers-by for years.      
It's hard work keeping my people safe. 
Allowed out again, Tiger Lily jumped and snuffled at the screen door. "I'll get that snake. I will." What the heck, let her try. She rocketed out the door, but didn't make it past the rubber-tire chew toy in the grass. She picked it up and turned toward the door. "Let's play." The Hubs rewarded her vigilance with a nice long session of fetch. I eschewed my fainting couch to fix dinner. (Leftover colcannon with bits of corned beef and a fried egg.) Then, fortified with the last of the shortbread, I composed this account for posterity. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

No Jeans for You

      Always up on the latest in political correctness, I am woked and stoked about cultural appropriation. Brown girls invented the circle, you know, so no hoop earrings for white women. Or men, I reckon. No choker necklaces, since that appropriates a style from some eastern European place. Certainly no sombreros, corn rows or stir-fry either. (Wait. Can you have a tattoo if you're not Polynesian? This requires more research.) But I rise today to spread the demand that no one who is female of any color or male without being an immigrant to the US from either Bavaria or Latvia may wear jeans without Incurring the Wrath. I'm pretty sure you have to be Jewish too. Because here's the guy who invented jeans back in the 1870s: 

Yessiree, that is Jacob W. Davis, a Jewish tailor who came to the US from Latvia and wound up in San Francisco. With a wife and a bunch of kids. You know, straight. So that's another group out. Anyway, a woman asked him to make some indestructible pants for her lumberman husband. He thought of putting rivets on the stress points of denim trousers. The garment we know as "jeans" was born. They were way popular with men who worked hard outdoors. Gold miners liked them. So maaaaybe that extends their acceptability to some Gentile men, but, still, only ones who work really hard outdoors. 

Mr. Davis bought his denim from Levi Strauss's dry goods store. A partnership was just the thing for marketing the pants and making a pile of money, so he asked Mr. Strauss to share the patent with him. Check out Levi Strauss:        
Oy vey, another Jewish white guy. Oops. I guess I can't say that. Of course, I meant, "Goodness gracious." He came from Bavaria. (I could probably get away with a dirndl, since my forebears are German. There's a Danish great-grandfather in there too, so I can knock myself out at breakfast. I prefer cheese or apricot to prune, thanks.) 
The spirit of the age has spoke, so get woke, all you black, brown, Caucasian, Asian, native and Methodist girls, and men, or however you identify, unless you are white and Jewish, or maaaybe a miner or a logger, unless you want to be yelled at in public by an old white lady, you get out of those jeans. Now.