EVERY LITTLE THING

We’re going through a difficult period, mostly because of the dogs. Dogs getting old and sick. Having to deal with stuff we don’t want to deal with.

Everything has hit at the same time. All the family drama and three out of four dogs ill or aging. That’s a lot. Garry and I are by turns, depressed, distressed, and exhausted. Not feeling much like partying.

kitchen in hadley

Everything has a cost. Nothing is simple.

Our son gave us a new television, which was great because the one we had was getting on in years. It still works fine, but it’s an older technology. Difficult to find equipment that will work with it. We were going to have to trade up, like it or not. Getting a new television was good thing, a positive thing about which to be glad. Right?

The new one is significantly sharper, almost like 3-D. But (there’s always a but), the old one had pretty good speakers.  The new one has speakers that wouldn’t be good enough for a laptop, much less a television. Not only could Garry not hear it, I couldn’t hear it either. If I turned it up loud enough, it over-modulated, buzzed, and emitted a high-pitched whistle that gave me an instant headache.

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I had to get some kind of sound system. Without money to invest in a premium system, I found a sound bar on Amazon. Tonight, we have television sound again. Following three days using headphones all the time, what a relief! I feel like we’ve overcome at least one crisis.

I know it sounds trivial. It is trivial. Just $100 on a credit card. Voila. Problem solved. It was one more thing on top of all the other things. Somehow, it seemed a bigger deal than it ought.

That’s the thing with trivial problems when they show up together with serious ones. When you’ve got enough stress, anything that happens feels like a big deal. Feels like more than the nothing it really is. Small things feel much more important than they are, get more attention than they deserve.

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I got a new lens for my Olympus. A great little f1.8 25 mm lens. Came with a lens hood. But I couldn’t put the lens hood on because there was no thread on the front of the lens. So I called Adorama, from whom I bought the lens. I told them there was no damned thread, so I couldn’t use the hood.

It took them a week to get back to me. There is, they explained (it took them a week to track down this information) a decorative ring on the lens. Remove it and the hood screws on.

They couldn’t include a slip of paper with the lens to tell me there was a decorative ring covering the thread on the front of the lens? The whole “we don’t need no stinking instructions” attitude by the tech industry is pissing me off. Just one more aggravation on top of other aggravations.

Finally, here’s the ultimate stupid problem.

There’s a fly in the house. A regular house fly. Every time he flies past my face, I feel a ground swell of rage, that this stupid fly won’t go away. How long does a fly live? This fly has so far been buzzing around for three days. Isn’t that too long? Just saying.

fuchsia macro june 2015

The dogs. The family drama. Every little hassle that should be nothing is exaggerated because we’re already stressed.

Soon, it will pass. It always passes. My mother’s favorite saying was “This too shall pass” and truly, everything will settle down. All will be well.

In the meantime, forgive me. I’m cranky.

TINKER’S WORLD

FOR JUDY DYKSTRA-BROWN AND MORRIE

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of veterinary care? Squeaky toys? Greenies?  Dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, usually called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France.

PBGVs are not the dog for everyone. Smart, sometime scarily. Natural clowns who will do almost anything to make you laugh. Noisy, nosy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home, she wasn’t like any other puppy. Incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else.

Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

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She was sensitive. Probably a born therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, who was sick. She knew where you hurt. The only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine.

She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound. A hunter, born to track, point and carry prey back to a master.

She was the smartest of our dogs, the smartest dog ever. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit.

She knew. We called her Tinker The Thinker because she planned. Remembered. She held grudges. Nonetheless, she was at the bottom of the pack hierarchy.

We thought it was her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding, and other canine criminality.

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Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

When Griffin, our big male Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally.

Tinker’s sensitive heart broke. She became depressed, would not play with humans or dogs. For the next decade, Tinker wouldn’t even look at Griffin. She apparently blamed us, too, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began a Reign of Terror.

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Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs. She was three years old when the destruction began.

She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than chewer. She would steal stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys, towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them.

She would do enormous damage in under a minute. We couldn’t leave the room unless we put everything where Tinker couldn’t get it. She struck quickly. When we went to bed for the night, every item had to be locked away. If she couldn’t get to an electronic item, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs.

For dessert, shoes were yummy. I didn’t own shoes without tooth marks. We called them “Tinkerized.” We had a grading system from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.

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During one memorable intermission, Tinker dismembered the remotes. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but did not eat them), then ripped out the innards — in under two minutes.

She didn’t waste time. If she had leisure, she’d also tear out keys and mangle cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

For her entire life, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

For the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker ran around. Played tag. Joined the chorus when the pack pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.

Hounds have beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the best.

Three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down. One day, she collapsed. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a stroke and died too. They were exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that their nearly simultaneous passing was a coincidence.

After the two hounds were gone, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again.

Great Griffin

Griffin, who broke her heart

What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a pup. She caused thousands of dollars of damage to electronics, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies — who knows what else?

She paid us back and more. When I was ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How much is that worth? What is the true cost of a lifetime love of a dear friend?

TOO SOON OLD

We have an old dog who has reached the end of a long run and I feel terrible about it. She’s not sick, mind you. Just old. Deaf. Rather blind, too. Her rear end is gone. We have been carrying her in and out of the house for months.

A while back, decided, we agreed to give her this summer and then, send her to the bridge.

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It is making me miserable. Because she isn’t unhappy or ill, just less and less mobile. I relate to that. Otherwise, she seems pretty happy. Except that Garry has to get up at dawn to carry her outside, then wait and bring her back up. I’m up a few hours later to do it again. This continues all day, every day. When the snow flies, it will be impossible to manage.

Eventually, we get to this point with every pet. I hate it. Never get used to it, never feel okay about it. It is easier if your fur kid is suffering. Then, at least, you feel it was a necessary thing, unavoidable, timely. This just hurts and fills me with dread.

I’m trying to wrap my brain around it, but it’s not going well. It is making me sad and it’s doing the same to Garry.

Our pets get old much too soon.

NOTE: I was going to post this without allowing comments, but finally decided to leave it be. I’m thanking all of you for you kindness and understanding. I hope you’ll understand that I’m not going to say thank you to each of you individually, but I did want to make sure you all know I am very grateful for the sympathy and concern.

A FATHER’S DAY TRIBUTE

 MUSIC BY SWO8, PHOTOS BY MARILYN ARMSTRONG

“Tribute to Clarence” by swo8 Blues Jazz from the album Osaka Time in iTunes, was written for Leslie’s father, Clarence. They had an organ at home — at one point, even a pipe organ (I’m so envious — I love the sound of those pipes).

Leslie’s father built a special room to house the pipes. When he played that organ the house rocked! Clarence had two loves in life: music and his dogs. It was at the “dogs” that I came in because I have pictures of dogs, probably because we have four dogs now and have had five before. If we took in all the dogs offered to us, we’d have probably been able to register as a shelter, but we were up to capacity.

A fine piece of original jazz! The dog is Leslie’s “grand-dog.” The man playing the organ is indeed the aforementioned Clarence, Leslie’s dad. Enjoy!!

BIRDS, HANDS, AND BUSHES

Racket had gotten out of his cage. Nothing unusual about that, except that usually when I let him loose, I’d make sure to put away anything I cared about to avoid having Racket destroy it. It was  futile but I felt obliged to try.

Racket, as his name implied, was a charming, noisy Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo. He was the perfect example of why cockatoo owners invented stainless steel perches. Racket could reduce anything made of hardwood to splinters in seconds. He had gone to work on the sofa not long ago … not the upholstery. I think the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo the carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors.

The arm of the sofa nearest his cage was a pile of wood chips and splinters. No evidence of the original design remained. Having completed his work on the sofa, he had refocused his efforts towards acquiring wisdom. He began ingesting the Encyclopedia Britannica, one volume at a time. At this time, he was about half-way through the project. I could see that he’d had a busy morning and had consumed two more volumes.

There wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no where else to put the books. The flat was tiny and there was no storage space. Racket couldn’t spend all his time in a cage. Parrots need freedom, at least an hour or two a day. They are smart birds. They need to interact with the world, with us, to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what Cockatoos do for fun: tearing apart everything on which he could lay his beak.

I wasn’t sure who’d let him out that morning. Probably one of the kids. But he couldn’t stay out all day. I had to go to work and no sane parrot owner would leave their bird loose, unsupervised with no one at home. Or at least no one sane would leave this parrot unsupervised.

Sulfur Crested Cockatoo playing

Cockatoo photo by Miguel

I shuddered at the thought of how much damage he could do given an entire day to wreak havoc. It was time to put him back into his house.

“Come on, sweetie,” I cooed. “Time to go home. Mommy’s got to go to work.”

“CAWWWWWWW! SQUAWK!! ACK-ACK-ACK!” (No M’am, I have other plans) he said. Ah those melodious tones.

He was a tame bird, bad habits notwithstanding and would stand on my hand, nibble on my ears. So far he hadn’t taken it into his head to remove my ears, though he had tried to rip an earring out.  But tame and obedient are in no way synonymous. He knew I wanted him back in his cage and he clearly didn’t want to go there. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.

“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to get going and we don’t have all day to hunt wild birdies.”

I offered him my arm and teased him with a piece of watermelon in my other hand. He was ever so fond of fruit. Finally, after trying his birdy best to get the fruit without having to climb up on the arm, he gave in and climbed aboard. Quick as a wink, he was back in his cage, a squishy piece of red fruit dangling from his beak.

I pondered how much worse this would have been if I not have been able to get him in hand and instead, had been left with two just like him safely hidden in a bush. It boggled my mind.

AHAB THE WANDERER

Back in another life, I lived in a little house on Long Island, not far from the university where I’d gone to school and at which my husband worked. We always had a dog and several cats. In those days, we let our cats outside. There wasn’t much traffic and everyone’s cats roamed the neighborhood.

One day, while we were out in the yard, we had a visitor, a medium-sized black and white cat. He was extremely friendly. Sidled right up to us, purring, and doing that little head butt that’s so endearing. Maybe he was hungry? Of course we fed him.

My son fell immediately in love and we said he could keep the cat.

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My husband had a passion for the classics. He named the cat Ahab, which he said meant “wanderer.”

Ahab was a sweetheart, the most laid-back cat I ever knew. My 4-year old felt Ahab needed a bubble bath in a bucket. Ahab purred his way through the bubble and the rinse cycle, then continued purring all the way through dinner and a relaxed evening on the sofa with the family.

We couldn’t figure out why anyone would let a sweet fellow like Ahab go. He was young. Healthy. Litter trained, though he preferred going outside to do his business. His coat was shiny and he showed no sign of abuse or neglect. He oozed charm.

Ahab settled in like he’d always lived with us. He got along with the dog and the other cats. Loved children. Loved everyone. We made a date to take him to vet and get his shots.

He never went to the vet, at least not with us. The following day, without so much as a “by your leave,” Ahab moved down the block and took up residence with a different family. We were a little wounded. We’d never been abandoned by a cat before. His new family adored him but Ahab only hung around a few days, then moved on.

We eventually lost track of Ahab. He moved from house to house, charming everyone and purring his way to his next home. He never stayed longer than a few days and was always the perfect house guest.

Was he a stray? If he was, it was because that’s what he wanted to be.  Ahab was indeed the wanderer.