By the time you hit your retirement years, “play with” can take on an alarming tone. The problem is that our taste in fun has not changed, but we have. So even though we used to love formula racing, our aging bodies might not be up to the split-second timing required to handle them.
Some of us collect miniatures or just plain collect. Others of us see for a less perilous path to entertainment, foregoing mountain climbing, NASCAR racing, and deep-sea diving.
Then there are the rest of us who never did that in the first place. We have to give up other things, like powerful hallucinogenic drugs which don’t work well with pacemakers.
Fortunately, there’s a whole world of other stuff to try.
The sun is not shining because it rained all night, off and with a lot of lightning and thunder. Although our light dimmed briefly, we never lost power. Oddly enough, we were watching the weather when the main storm was passing. They were saying that the storms hustling south to north through Massachusetts were going to drop the humidity and the temperature.
For the next four or five days, we are going to have normal temperatures in the low seventies with more or less normal amounts of humidity.
Considering it was too hot yesterday to make a simple trip to Garry’s barber and finally get a proper trim for his head — because Garry, who had been outside cleaning up after the dogs — said “It’s just too hot” and that, from Garry is a real statement.
Garry likes warm weather. Garry likes hot weather. But this weather? Technically, it was just 96-degrees yesterday, but with almost 80% humidity, and not a breath of breeze, it felt well over 100-degrees.
Air has been like hot soup. The dogs refused to go out. Too hot.
Bonnie, it turns out, has been resisting going out because she is nearly blind. We knew she was going blind for a couple of years. She has a kind of chronic dry eye that even though we put drops and clean her eyes out four or five times every day, one eye is completely clouded up and the vet says it is unlikely she can see anything through it and the other, while still functional, is rapidly developing a serious cataract and it won’t be very long before she can’t see.
She is 11 years old. We have had her with us since she was a mere 9 weeks old, a rescue from a puppy mill. The better news? She is a bit pudgy, but not excessively. As far as Dr. Marcy is concerned, she is in fantastic shape for her age.
For her age.
I hate that wording. I’m not fond of it when it’s about me, but it gives me the cold shivers when it’s about one of the dogs. She has reached the end when “stuff comes up.” Lumps and bumps. She’s a great eater and basically, a very happy little dog, but she is getting old.
I hate it when they get old. It’s so soon. Wasn’t it yesterday I stood in the freezing, snowy yard at three in the morning begging Bonnie to DO SOMETHING so frozen mama could go back to bed?
She loves the snow. She was tiny, yet she bounced through it like one of those high-bounce rubber balls. She still loves snow. But not rain or heat.
We took in the Duke originally because Bonnie had become so inactive we felt her lack of vigor would take years off her life. She and the Duke have formed a real bond. He goes up and down the steps with her, apparently (on some doggish level) aware that she can’t see properly. No depth perception. He pushes her in and out of the doggy door.
With Duke around, she is much more active. The Duke makes her play with him. She doesn’t just lie on the sofa anymore. She plays and this is a good thing.
Duke shepherds both Scotties up and down the stairs, even though there isn’t a speck of shepherd in his Asian breed mix. He looks like a Shih Tzu, but he’s twice the size and he has a funny squashy, uneven face, one ear up, one ear down. Visually, he’s a dead ringer for a Papillon — except he is very much larger. But he has that face, minus the one downward-pointing ear.
Meanwhile, against all odds, he shepherds both Scotties and us. He is always inches from Garry or me when we go anywhere. If it’s the bathroom and we shut the door, he lies across the threshold and waits. If we are off to bed, he settles in on the floor across the doorway. No night visitor will pass him by.
Every night. On the wood floor. It is not that he is velcro on us. More like we are velcro on him. I feel like I should put a bed in the hall for him, but the hallway is really narrow. I’d trip and fall over it.
He wants my coffee and muffin, though first and foremost, he wants my muffin. With the lemon curd on it. If I turn my back for half a second, he’s nailed that muffin. Gone. He looks utterly innocent.
“What muffin? Me? I didn’t eat your muffin. Prove it. Show me the evidence.”
Not a crumb remains on his snout.
Drinking coffee in the morning is one part coffee, two parts fending off The Duke. I let him have the crumbs left on the plate few as they are. That level of loyalty surely deserves at least the crumbs — and anyway, he has probably swiped half of it while I wasn’t looking. He is very fast.
Boyoboy, I can’t think of any time in my life I have felt LESS sensual. Life just isn’t like that these days. It seems to be more about regularity, eating right, hoping nothing breaks, and wondering if the retirement money will last as long as your life and what happens if it doesn’t?
I think that’s where dogs become more important. They are furry, fluffy, cozy, and snuggly. They are more than a best pal. They are the other “person” who remembers to kiss and hug you. Dogs love you and you can safely love them back. All they want is a biscuit and some playtime or a walk.
The longer I live, the rarer such behavior becomes. Someone who loves without wanting something back. Amazing, eh?
This is a favorite story of Big Guy, the best cat ever, with pardon asked of every other best cat in the world. Because there are so many best cats!
Several years before the priest scandal destroyed Cardinal Law’s career, Garry was friends with him. Not close pals, but more than acquaintances. Garry thought I would enjoy Bishop Cardinal Law’s company, so when the opportunity came up, he did a very Garry thing.
He was working weekends for several decades that decade, so if anything happened on Sunday, Garry was on it. This Sunday, the old Catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.
For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere in Boston is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from the lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.
The cathedral was a grand dame amongst local churches. You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. Roxbury was almost entirely Black and the Catholic population was small. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood, red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We were among the first two or three middle-class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of a positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians — and that turned out to be true, though it took some years for the area to finally turn around.
To be fair, we had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location — and we could afford it. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, more or less within our budget. “Affordable” in Boston — any neighborhood, no matter how “bad” — is really expensive. For the price of a condo in one of Boston’s most problematic areas, you could buy a big house with land out past Metrowest. In fact, that’s what we eventually did.
But I digress.
Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Roxbury was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors or felt safer.
The morning when Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.
“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”
“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”
“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”
BING BONG said the doorbell.
I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.
Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter greeter.
I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.
The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately (rightfully and so sadly) blamed for the long-standing policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.
When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.
Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?
“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller anyway. It was going to need some serious dry-cleaning.
I took the less valorous road and shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.
“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly, he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.
“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.
“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.
Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.
“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.
“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”
“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”
“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.
When the other reporters gathered around and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.
Two Scottish Terriers and a mutt of Asian extraction.
2. How long have you had your current pet(s)?
We’ve had Bonnie since she was 9 weeks old and she is now 11. After that, We’ve had Gibbs for two years and Duke for one year
3. What’s the longest period of time you’ve lived with a pet?
Bonnie wins that one. We got her when she was only 9 weeks old. And suddenly, she’s 11. How did that happen?
4. What type of animals do you generally gravitate towards when adopting pets?
At this point? Dogs.
For a long time, we didn’t live anywhere we could keep dogs, so we didn’t have them, but once we could, we got one, then another. And then some more.
5. What type of animal do you think is the easiest to care for as a pet?
Pets are not “easy” really. When they are healthy and happy and not old and cranky, they are all easy. But time does to dogs what it does to people.
They develop physical issues, including arthritis and cancer and because their lives are so short, it feels like no time passes between puppyhood and old age.
6. Do any of your pets have annoying habits that you can’t break them of?
Gibbs barks continuously when Owen is around the house. NO idea why because he doesn’t do that with anyone else. Duke tends to try to bully the Scotties.
They don’t like it and neither do I, but he has a passionate yearning to be top dog and he’s pushy. The Scotties are not pushy, so he gets away with it.
7. What, in your opinion, is the most difficult thing about being a pet owner?
Vet bills. And losing your dogs to age.
8. Do any of your animals have amusing traits that are particular to them?
All of them.
Bonnie is just adorable, stubborn, funny. Duke lived most of his life in a cage, but he has come a long way in a short time.
He’s quite the cuddler these days when The Duke doesn’t try to muscle him out of the way.
The Duke is totally wacko. Seriously nuts.
9. Which type of pet do you think requires the most care?
Fish, absolutely. Fish tanks always need care.
10. Was there a furbaby that you bonded with more closely than any other?
Griffin, our big boy PBGV was my favorite. He didn’t live nearly long enough.
But I love them all. He was just such a big heap of love and he made me laugh.
11. Do you spoil your pets? In what way?
Basically, they run the joint and let us live here and feed them. We are very good about that.
12. How do your pets react to strangers in the yard? at the door? in the house?
It depends on the stranger. Mostly, strangers don’t come into the yard. I have signs everywhere warning people away.
It’s not to protect them. It’s to protect the dogs from them.
13. Do you tend to anthropomorphize your animals? If so, how far do you take it? For example: Do you dress them in clothing?
Not so much as I’ve gotten older. I often wish I could get into their heads and understand them better.
14. Have you ever had what might be considered “unusual” or exotic pets?
We had a pair of ferrets, Bonnie and Clyde. They were adorable, but they weren’t our pets. They were our cat’s pets. He adopted them.
15. How old were you when you (or your family) adopted your first pet?
I grew up with Doberman Pinschers. I think we got the first one when I was four and they were there until I was a teenager. Then they got a German Shepherd, but by then, I was out of the house and living a separate life.
Garry and I both had cats when we met. He had two, I had one. Getting them to like each other was not easy, but neither of us was willing to give up a cat!
16. What’s the most trouble you can remember a pet getting into?
Bonnie was stolen, but the cops brought her home. Sirens and all.
18. What does your relationship with your furbaby mean to you?
They keep us sane. I swear I’d never survive life without them.
19. How do your pets react when you sing and/or dance?
We don’t dance and our singing seems to be mostly ignored.
20. Have you ever adopted a pet and found out you didn’t get along with them? What did you do?
Yes. We rehomed them to people who loved them.
21. Where do your pets sleep in relation to you? Do they have their own bed, or do you allow them to share yours?
Our pets own the living room and sleep on the sofas. My back is too twisted to share it with three dogs and in any case, the Scotties are too short-legged to get up on a bed without being in danger of getting hurt falling off.
22. How do you come up with names for your pets?
Garry picked Bonnie whose full name is Bonnie Annie Laurie if you please.
I picked Gibbs.
Garry picked The Duke.
23. Putting aside money and sanitary issues — If you could fill your house and property with animals, what type would they be?
Dogs. And maybe a donkey.
24. What was the most expensive pet you’ve ever adopted?
A Norwich terrier who turned out to be a horrible mistake. We rehomed her and she lived a GREAT life, but she was not a dog who got along with other animals. And she was dumb as a rock.
25. What, in your opinion, is the best thing about adopting animals into your home?
They remind you to keep living! Because you need them — and they need YOU.
My house was neat enough if you didn’t look too closely. You could walk into it without falling over a pile of dirty clothing (that was all in the basement — another story entirely) and the dogs and cats were (usually) housebroken.
I couldn’t say the same for my toddler or my friends. Overall, the toddler was less of a threat to house and home than the friends, but when they got to messing around, anything could happen.
As my son grew, he developed (what a surprise) a passion for all kinds of creatures. Rabbits. Hamsters. Birds. We already had cats (many) and dogs.
We never properly owned more than two dogs but often had three or four. Two of them were ours. One was on loan from a friend who was in the army or on the road playing gigs. The fourth had belonged to a houseguest who had left but somehow forgotten to take their dog. Sometimes, it took us years to get the owner to come back and take the furkid too.
I love animals that aren’t insects, so while I frequently pointed out that it was NOT my dog and would they please come and get him or her, I would never throw them out. The owner I might toss out the door, but never the dog.
The year Owen turned eight, he decided he wanted geckos. They were the “in” things for 8-year-old boys that year. I pointed out that I didn’t think they would last long with the cats in the house.
He wanted the geckos. I was not much of a disciplinarian. If you argue with me, I’ll say no at least twice. After that? I usually give up.
As soon as we got the terrarium and the plants and finally settled the geckos into their home, Owen promptly lost interest in them and rediscovered his bicycle. That left me to care for the geckos, who would only eat mealworms.
I am not a big fan of worms. Any worms. I can tolerate earthworms because they are good for the soil, but overall, if it creeps or crawls, it’s not my thing. Did I mention that the geckos would only eat LIVE mealworms? I had to buy them in little cups at the pet store.
So mom dropped over and the cup of mealworms for the geckos had tipped over in the fridge. Which was now full of tiny worms. I assured her that my fridge does not usually contain worms and the worms were what the geckos ate. I don’t think she believed me. It was years before she would eat anything at my house. She always quietly inspected everything, in case there were a few worms there.
As for the geckos, a few days later, the cats figured out how to open the terrarium and there were no more geckos. And thankfully, no more mealworms.
Recently, I got “set up” with Instagram. Assured that I could be very popular on it, I set up a password and was left still baffled by how come I can’t use one of my laptops. I don’t have an iPhone and I’m not really comfortable on my mini iPad. But no matter. I could work it out.
All I need to do, is want to make it work. Which I haven’t done.
Assured that I could be very popular, I realized I wasn’t sure I wanted to be more popular. I think maybe I’m entirely popular enough. I feel obliged to respond to commenters. As it is, I barely have time to do anything but work on the computer.
When I have a busy day that requires I do outside stuff — like shopping or cooking or spending the day on telephone hold — I look at my “inbox” and there are hundreds of new emails. I know I won’t be able to even open them, much less answer them. As bedtime rolls around, I delete almost everything, saving a few things that I really want to read and hope I’ll find time for.
Tomorrow is another day. Another few hundred emails will show up. If I leave today’s stuff until tomorrow, I’ll be buried. I may never dig out.
So is that the only reason I don’t want to be “more popular?”
Not entirely. To me, at least, popularity is responsibility. People in my world — online and off — expect me to respond to them, to answer their comments, to pay attention to what’s going on in their world — and rightfully so.
Except — I’m out of time. I can’t do it.
I can not do one thing more than I’m already doing. I’m stretched thin. Of those hundreds of daily emails, I’m able to read fewer than half. I barely have time to entirely read even the few I open, much less thoroughly read anything. Of the (too many) blogs I follow, I read maybe a third of them on a good day. On a less good day during which I’ve got other obligations than computing, I may not get to anything. I find myself at midnight looking at a mass of unopened emails and knowing I can’t do it. I’m tired. All I want is to read for a few minutes and fall asleep.
I’ve run out of conscious hours.
Too much of something is very similar to nothing at all. Having mountains of material to read and being unable to spend any time digging into it is very much like not reading. The result is nagging guilt. This is not what I had in mind.
I don’t want to give up on the people I follow, but I’m in over my head and that’s without adding anything more. So no Instagram for me. No more anything. Garry’s surgery is two weeks away and I’ve got to find time to deal with him and me and our lives. Everything else will have to wait.
Being more popular is not what I need. What I really need is more time!
To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!