Category Archives: Dogs

You Might Be A Redneck If…

If you’re from the U.S., you probably know that this is the famous hook the comedian Jeff Foxworthy uses in his comedy routine (“If you’ve ever mowed the grass and found your car, you might be a redneck.  If you’ve ever taken a beer to a job interview….”)

The kindest definition I’ve found of redneck is “a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area”.  Which is actually the most accurate.  But the common usage is from Miriam-Webster, which defines it as “a white person who lives in a small town or in the country, especially in the southern U.S., who typically has a working-class job, and is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive”.

I had this conversation today with Yard Guy, who is a certified redneck, only by virtue of being from the South and having a blue-collar job.  He has no objectionable opinions, is not a racist, and is one of the most environmentally conscious people I know.  He probably has little formal education, but as far as I’m concerned, that makes him smarter than a lot of people who do.

I told him I was going away for the week of Christmas, so he said he’d be sure to ask his Mama to keep an eye on my house (she lives around the corner).  Also, my next-door neighbor, Kathy.  While we were on the subject, he noted that his Mama and Kathy have become cranky and hard to deal with in their older years (both of them are about my age, and both are widowed).  I said that probably they were spending too much time alone.  He wanted to know why I’m not like them? I said, because I work.  I’m out almost every day.  I deal with the public.  He said, oh, yeah, well there is that.

While we were on the subject of dogs, he informed me that Mama now has a second dog, which like the first dog does not really belong to her, but to his niece who also owns the first dog.  The first dog is a pitbull mix named “Vicious”.  I swear I am not making that up.  The important thing here is the distinction between “keeping” and “owning” a dog.  It’s the same thing as “living” somewhere and “staying” somewhere.  You get mail at one place (where you live), but you don’t actually live there.  You “stay” somewhere else.  Got it?

Yard Guy went on to say that he hates Vicious, who once tried to attack him, and only failed because he happened to see her coming out of the corner of his eye and swung a Weedeater at her.  He told Mama that if Vicious ever actually bit him then he’s going to kill her.  He said he would patiently go to his truck, get his pistol, and shoot Vicious dead in Mama’s back yard.  Just so you know, Mama.  She said, oh surely you wouldn’t.  He said,  surely I would.

And I believe him.  And he can legally do it.  If I had a gun, I would do the same thing, as much as I love dogs.  So you see?  Yard Guy and I are simpatico.  We think alike.

Yard Guy asked where I was going.  I said, North Carolina, where I mostly grew up.  He said, you grew up in North Carolina?  So you’re a redneck too?  (Well, technically, you can’t be a redneck if you’re from North Carolina, you’re a hillbilly).  I said, I was born in Tennessee.  He was like, well that cinches it.  You’re a redneck.  Who knew?

Then he was off and running into a story about a friend, originally from the mountains of North Carolina, who hates it here.  There are just too many people.  The friend has three little daughters, whose favorite food is frog legs, or whatever else Daddy can catch.  Yard Guy and I are not that impressed.  We’ll eat deer meat (and as far as I know, he’d probably kill it himself), but seriously…feed the girls a Happy Meal once in a while.  Branch out.

While we were chatting outside, my dog Pippin was inside whining furiously.  He “knows” Yard Guy and wanted to say hello. I let him out and Yard Guy and Pippin spent a little bonding time.

I love the South.  The few years I spent outside it, I missed it warts and all.


The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

In my experience, holidays are not all they’re cracked up to be. As an illustration, I thought I would tell this story.
The house next door to me is apparently cursed, at least as far as dogs are concerned. I’ll just focus on the residents prior to the current one.
It was a young couple with a little girl who was about 4 years old named Kaylee. They also had a female dog they claimed was a Mastiff. Not. The dog was brown with a black nose, maybe about 70 pounds, my best guess is pit bull/Boxer mix.
They had a swing set in the back yard for Kaylee, and would let her outside by herself…with the dog. The dog was very protective of her and very gentle with her. It was sweet. I can’t remember the dog’s name so I’ll call her…Alice.
One day Kaylee thought it would be fun to open the gate and let Alice out for a romp in the world beyond. Looking out the window, I saw Alice running down the street and went to notify Kaylee’s parents that she was loose. I got about halfway up my driveway, when Alice started back to her house. She caught me there and began stalking me back down the driveway.
Every step I would take backward, she would take a step forward. My goal was first to just back up enough to get back inside my fence. Then I thought maybe I could just back up enough to open the gate and let my Rottweiler out. I didn’t want him to get hurt, but I knew he would win this fight, and I needed his help. But I was too far away even to do that. I had no weapon, no defense.
So I called out to Kaylee, who was giggling up a storm, she thought this was a lot of fun. I said, Go get your parents. I asked twice and she kept giggling. Poor little thing, it wasn’t her fault. Finally, not sure how this was going to play with Alice, I screamed at Kaylee GO GET YOUR MOTHER NOW! Yelling at Kaylee hurt her feelings and she started crying, and ran in the house. Within seconds her father came tearing out of the house, grabbed Alice’s collar and apologized over and over again.
This was in the summer, and before winter, they got another smaller dog, which they claimed was some sort of toy breed. It was black and curly haired, and probably weighed about 30 pounds. My best guess was Chow mix. What was wrong with these people?
They were straight up Florida Panhandle rednecks But they seemed to need their dogs to be sort of fancier breeds than they actually were, which I thought was poignant.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day that year. The father went deer hunting very early in the day and brought a deer home, which he cleaned in the back yard. (What!?) He left all the parts he didn’t want in the back yard with Alice and Curly Black Not-Toy dog.
Apparently it was their turn to host Thanksgiving because a bunch of people showed up. All of them were told not to go in the back yard. But two little boy cousins dared each other. (“I’ll go in if you will!”) The minute the 9 year old who had been dared walked into the back yard, Alice launched and bit him in the face.
So everybody there spent Thanksgiving in the Emergency Room. I know this story because the father shared it with me. He told me he was going to have to put up Beware of Dog signs and didn’t want me to feel threatened. Really?
He never did put up signs, and moved away very soon after that. Happy Thanksgiving.

Laika the Space Dog

A second-generation friend of mine on Facebook posts, nearly every day, a “This day in history” post, which I always look forward to.  (By second-generation, I mean, a friend, in this case a cousin, of someone I actually know.  In a few rare cases, I’m friends with the friends of people I don’t know, Facebook having re-defined the definition of “friend”.  Well, that’s why they call it social networking.)

So, yesterday, July 20th, in the year 1960, the U.S. recovered the first living beings to have orbited the earth.  Two dogs.

But first there was Laika.  Laika was the first living creature to orbit the earth in a spacecraft, Sputnik 2.  Other dogs had been sent into space, but suborbitally. Laika was launched into space on November 3, 1957.  No matter what happened, Laika was never coming back.  No matter how long the craft orbited, there was only enough oxygen for 6 days.  The scientists had taught Laika to eat food pellets and the plan was to feed her a poisoned food pellet before the oxygen ran out.  If the craft had fallen out of orbit before the oxygen ran out, she would have died anyway because the craft was not designed to survive re-entry.  (It eventually disintegrated on April 14, 1958 upon re-entry.)

The official explanation was that the plan had been activated.  Laika was euthanized on Day 6 before the oxygen ran out.  You gotta love the official explanations of the Soviet Union.  In fact, what really happened is that there was a malfunction of the cooling system and Laika died from the heat 6 or 7 hours into the orbit.  I guess they didn’t know about this malfunction in time to euthanize her before she fried.  The true story wasn’t revealed until 2002.

Here are a few quotes from the Wikipedia article about her (which for a Wikipedia article, seems strangely accurate–they actually cite sources).

“Before the launch, one of the scientists took Laika home to play with his children.  In a book chronicling the story of Soviet space medicine. Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky wrote ‘I wanted to do something nice for her.  She had so little time left to live'”.

“One of the technicians preparing the capsule before final liftoff states that ‘after placing Laika in the container and before closing the hatch, we kissed her nose and wished her bon voyage, knowing that she would not survive the flight'”.

Finally, “It was not until 1998, after the collapse of the Soviet regime, that Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists responsible for sending Laika into space, expressed regret for allowing her to die.  ‘Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us.  We treat them like babies who cannot speak.  We shouldn’t have done it.  We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog'”.

At the time of Laika’s death, I was only 7 years old, and totally unaware of it. But her death sparked a huge outcry (there was resistance to it before that, but Laika’s death created more awareness).  I remember in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s, there were bitter debates about the use of animals to test new medicines and cosmetics.  Cosmetics?  As late as 1993, I had an argument with my cousin, an officer in the U.S. Navy, about the use of dolphins to seek out mines in the ocean.  He said, is it better to lose one dolphin, or a thousand human beings?

That was a good question. It still is a good question.  Today, 20 years later, the Navy is phasing out its use of dolphins, and the U.S. is phasing out its use of chimpanzees for research.  Technology has surpassed the usefulness of these animals.  But back when we didn’t have such sophisticated technology, was it okay then?  It seems to me that Laika’s trainers and handlers found it an agonizing decision.

And Never The Twain Shall Meet

This is not a post about Rudyard Kipling, but about dogs and cats who are twain if I ever I saw one (or two, as the case may be).  The occasion is, I have a new kitten.  His name is Toko (short for Tokoloshe).  Since I’m so knowledgeable about both cats and dogs, I predicted that the current inhabitant cat would be thrilled, because she is very maternal and loves to groom.  I predicted it would take the current inhabitant dog a while to warm up to the kitten, helped along by me frequently saying “NO!  Don’t do that!”

Instead, it’s been the opposite.  The dog’s attitude is, Whatever.  This is Day Two.  The current cat spent yesterday in hiding from the moment Toko peeped, and today has progressed to eventually coming out of hiding to hiss at the kitten, then returning to hiding.    You know, since I’m so knowledgeable and all, I got this completely wrong.


Toko, the peeper.  In this photo, he is sitting on his catnip mouse, in case it tries to escape.

On a second note, there is a viral video going around on YouTube and Facebook of the police shooting a Rottweiler in California.  I’ll spare you the video.  But here is the narrative:  dog owner is walking his dog, while blasting music from his car and taking cellphone pictures of the police who are trying to barricade a house across the street.  They ask him to turn down the music and stop taking pictures.  He doesn’t, so two officers start in his direction.  He puts the dog in the car, and voluntarily turns around to be handcuffed.  Then the dog jumps out of the car, perceiving his owner to be threatened.  (You put your dog in the car with the window open?) The police shoot the dog several times when it appears to be attacking, and the dog appears to be seizuring in the street after being shot.

As the owner of a Rottweiler in the past, I can say that you have a special responsibility when you have one.  They are very territorial and protective, and you have to take extra precautions when you have one.  Which includes not putting your dog in the car with the window open.  This guy knew his dog would react this way, and maybe he thought it would be fun to watch the police be “scared” of his dog.  How ignorant can you get?  The police did not kill his dog, he did.  Of course, he says he is going to sue them.  Good luck.

Let’s return to the happier subject of Toko.  I deliberately brought him home on the afternoon before the July 4th holiday so we would have bonding time and that part is going well.  He follows me everywhere, purrs when you pet him or pick him up, and I’ve discovered what it takes to wean him (I thought he already was, but he isn’t).  I forgot how much fun it is to have a kitten.




Shaka the Neighbor Dog

Shaka is a Rottweiler who has lived next door for about 7 years, since he was a puppy.  As we speak, he is barking his head off at…nothing.  He didn’t used to do that.  Rottweilers, generally, don’t bark much.  Only when they need to.  So every time I hear him barking like this, it’s like a stab to the heart.  He does it because he’s lonely.  He has to hear his own voice and entertain himself.

It used to be that when I came home from work in the evening, he was the first at the fence to greet me.  Any attention or interesting event was better than none.  Now he barks at me when I come home.  Part of that may be that I look strange to him, and not like myself since I broke my leg two months ago.  First I was in a cast and using a walker for a month, then in a clumsy boot for a month.  He rushes the fence in a very aggressive manner, then just stands there menacingly.

Lucky for me, I know Rottweilers can’t jump over a fence from a dead stop.  They need a running start.  And they aren’t that good at jumping even then.  So as long as he’s at the fence…I can calm him down by talking to him.  He knows my voice, even if I look strange, and I always call his name.  But he doesn’t wag his tail any more.

Shaka used to be a lot quieter when he had a pack, two Golden Retriever mixes (possibly) named Sugar and Spice.  I reported the neighbors to Animal Control because of their poor care, and all three dogs were seized numerous times.  Finally, the neighbors chose only to redeem Shaka. Either Sugar or Spice…I don’t know which one….was adopted, and the other was euthanized, having been deemed too aggressive to be adopted.

I was heartbroken, and felt responsible, even though I wasn’t.   So I will not report the neighbors’ continuing neglect of Shaka. He is too old, and now too aggressive to be adopted.  But he makes me cry.

Fakesister, the Saint

She might dispute the title of Saint Fakesister, but shouldn’t.  When we parted on Saturday, I told her there were not enough words to thank her.  She told me just to get well…and there was one more thing I was supposed to do, but I forgot what it is already!

So maybe now I can come up with a few words, which will have a limited (but world-wide) audience.

I called her from St. George Island, and said, You know all those previous times you offered to come down and help me?  Well, this time, I really need you.  At first I thought I would have to go to Atlanta, but she said no, she would come here.  She lined up a hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn, and my friend Brenda and I were to meet her there around 1:00 P.M. on New Year’s Day. (Happy New Year to us, right?)

When Brenda and I pulled into the parking lot of the Hilton, we were behind an SUV which was towing a trailer.  Brenda said, “Could that be your sister?  Because I think that thing on the trailer (shrouded in a tarp) is a wheelchair.”

It was my sister, and it was a motorized wheelchair.  By a strange coincidence…and hold on here, it’s about to get messy…my sister’s husband’s sister’s husband’s mother had had it.  Told you that was messy.  The mother had passed away a couple of years ago, and the chair had sat unused in their garage or something.  So the chair has its own story

When they turned it on, it wouldn’t work, because the battery was dead, so Fakesister’s mechanically inclined husband, along with, I presume, his brother-in-law rigged it up to two lawnmower batteries, and it worked.

Fakesister also brought me a walker and a cane.  She let me stay with her in her hotel room for four days, and fed me.  She took my dog Pippin to my vet to board, after the poor little beast had to spend the night in her Dodge Durango.  It was New Year’s Day–no place was open, except the Animal Emergency Clinic, and they wouldn’t take him.  They said they might have made an exception–normally they don’t do “boarding”–but they didn’t have the kennel space.  Holidays are terrible for both animals and people–we eat things we shouldn’t and get sick, or we injure ourselves doing wilder and crazier things than usual in strange environments.

Then my sister took me to the orthopedic clinic, where she watched the process of my cast application with great interest, and offered moral support when I picked “glow in the dark” as my choice of cast color.  It was the only white color they had. Black was too gloomy.  All the others were colors I was pretty sure I would get sick of after only a week, much less six, which is how long I have to keep the cast on.  A little boy two tables down from me got a purple one on his arm.  I noticed he was wearing a purple T-shirt, which I guessed is one of his school colors.  How cute is that?

Then, my sister rented me a car–for six weeks.  She and her husband almost bought a car for me–which I would of course have returned when I no longer needed it–but the logistics of that were too overwhelming.  The doctor said I could drive, but not my own car which has a manual transmission.  It’s my left leg that’s broken, and I can’t operate a clutch.  When I bought this car in 2009, Fakesister said…get an automatic.  I hereby apologize for not following that advice–but the manual was $2000 cheaper.

When she got home, her husband had a giant vase of roses for her.  Now that is truly fabulous.

If all these things don’t qualify her for sainthood, then I don’t know the meaning of the word.  So, Fakesister, thank you.

Fakename’s Animal Planet: Domestic Version

Squirrels:  My last post was about a guy who is shooting squirrels in his back yard.  I have mixed feelings about squirrels.  They annoy me, but I have to tip my hat to their cleverness and persistence and comic antics.  I reluctantly admit that my world would be poorer without squirrels.  Once when there was a tropical storm, the wind was so strong that it blew them out of the trees.  I didn’t see a squirrel for a week.  And I missed them.  (You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone.)  I would never shoot them, even if I were in an area where it was safe.  I don’t believe in killing animals you don’t eat.  Oh wait, I forgot.  People here do eat them.

Cats:  At least at night, the weather here is cooling off, and that energizes cats.  Don’t ask me why.  I’m sure there must be some scientific explanation.  But the cat is whizzing around.  That just amazes me, since she is fat as a pig.  Somehow she works up the energy to whiz.  That’s bad for me.  She leaps off the back of the couch and grabs onto me on her journey…somewhere.  I get more puncture wounds than usual.  Plus, I completely cannot empathize.  I’m getting ready to hibernate.

Dogs:  It’s been a real adjustment for me to get used to the fact that I now only have one dog and one cat.  The last time that was the case was 1998.  So I now know for sure that that is a bad idea when it concerns dogs.  (Cats are different.)  But single dogs develop an exaggerated sense of their importance.  Not that they are entirely wrong.  My now Only Dog Pippin is like the winner of the TV reality show Survivor.  Their motto is Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.  And he thinks he has done that.  Well, no, Pippin.  The only part you got right was Outlast.

And in Pippin’s defense, he is still having trouble eating, because mealtimes do not proceed in the previously normal fashion.  He is having trouble adjusting too.  He just can’t talk about it.  So I feel bad for him.

But in many other ways, Pippin is still the same guy he always was.  He does regular perimeter patrols and is alert to all suspicious noises. (It could be a squirrel fight, it could be an unauthorized person riding a bike down the street.)

He is very protective, at least until he is personally threatened, then I figure he would climb a tree and ask the squirrels if he could hide in their nests.

Neighbor dogs:  I have for many years been the friend and protector of my neighbor dogs Shaka (a purebred Rottweiler), and Sugar and Spice (indeterminate breeds, but look like Golden Retriever mixes.)  And now they have disappeared.  I don’t know what happened to them.  I don’t dare ask the neighbors.  They already think I’m the Wicked Witch of the West.

To them, I’m like the guy who keeps shooting squirrels in the yard.  Annoying, but you can’t get rid of me.  I reported them to Animal Control twice, and Animal Control took it from there.  They seized the dogs 3 times.  So did they do it again?  I don’t know.  But I miss them terribly.

Stormy the Cat and the Mysteries of Cathood

Today I was struck by the differences between Stormy and the dogs.  This does not apply to all cats.  But the Doberman, for example, would never have voluntarily fallen asleep that close to the cat.

Stormy will sometimes park herself in the middle of the floor, for no apparent reason.  If that happens to be in a place where there is no way around her, you have two choices.  Step over her, or get her to move.  Any self-respecting dog would move, since they wisely don’t trust that you won’t accidentally step on them.  On the rare occasions when they don’t move, it’s the law that they must do so as soon as you start to step over them, thereby hopelessly entangling themselves in your legs.  I broke a rib that way once.  Stormy just continues to lie there.  She’s either very trusting, or very clueless.  Possibly both.

When the Doberman died, almost two weeks ago now, my other dog was clearly affected by it.  Stormy did not appear to notice.  However, today I found her lying in the floor in front of his crate, staring inside.  Maybe it just took her a while to notice, or maybe she noticed all along and I wasn’t good enough to pick up the cat signals.

When Troughton the Doberman was alive, he didn’t live in the crate, he just ate there, to prevent the other dogs from snarfing up his food and causing him to have to fight for it.  One of Stormy’s favorite activities was to go in his crate and pee on his sheepskin pad.  Bonus points if he was actually eating in the crate at the time.

Since he died, she hasn’t set foot in the crate.  The door is closed, but she can open it, as she has done many times before.  I guess the bloom is off the rose.

When I first got Troughton, I had three other dogs instead of just one, including a Rottweiler.  Those were interesting times, in a sort of quasi-scientific way.  Interesting to see how Troughton, who had always been an “only” dog,  find his position in the pack.  He was helped along greatly by the Rottweiler, who finally settled the matter by biting Troughton.  Besides being interesting, it was also terrifying, so I don’t mean to minimize it.  I had never been that enamored of Troughton’s alleged intelligence, but in this case, he got the picture fairly quickly.  His place in the pack went… straight to the bottom.  He didn’t really allow himself to be bullied, but neither would he challenge them.  A wise decision:  if Troughton had challenged one of the two smaller dogs, he would have brought on the wrath of the Rottweiler, who would literally die protecting his pack.   If that isn’t some form of intelligence, then I don’t understand the word.

Stormy has excellent cat radar.  She can be lying in the middle of the floor, or in a kitchen chair, but if I lie down on the couch, she is right there in seconds, settling herself next to my chest and purring.  Ahem, Stormy.  My plan was to take a nap.  Who can sleep with this infernal racket going on?  I gaze fondly back at the days when I also had a cat named Erin, who was so quiet that in order to tell if he was purring, you would have to put your hand on his throat.

It’s a well-known fact that dogs are dependent beings, because we’ve made them that way over the centuries.  Cats are considered to be more independent, which, as far as I’m concerned, is not supported by the evidence.  Cats are notorious attention-grabbers, as illustrated by the cartoon to follow.

Over a lifetime association with both dogs and cats, I can confidently say this:  dogs and cats are different.

Reading With Fakename: Rabid

Subitled, A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus.  It remains the “most fatal virus in the world, which kills nearly 100% of its hosts in most species, including humans”.  By nearly 100%, they mean a handful of people have survived, and I do mean literally a handful.  For practical purposes, don’t count on being the next survivor.

It’s diabolical in more ways than one.  The symptoms are not apparent until it has wormed its way into the brain, by which time it’s too late.  Its delivery system is also diabolical and unique.  It both infects the saliva of its victims AND drives them to bite others.

The only way to tell for sure if an animal is rabid (although its behavior is a big clue), is to kill it and examine its brain.  The authors, in a gallows humor sort of way, point out that this is like Schrodinger’s cat.

The animal is literally decapitated, and its entire head is sent to a lab.  Assuming this happens quickly, there will still be time to administer the post-infection vaccine, which exists thanks to Louis Pasteur.  Of course, it often is impossible to catch the animal responsible for the bite, unless it’s a domestic animal instead of a wild one.  And even then–capturing an infected domestic animal with rabies is risky, to engage in extreme understatement here.  So the authorities don’t try.  They just shoot it.  And be glad.  It’s the kindest thing they can do for the animal.

In my neck of the woods, any time someone is bitten by a normally shy and reclusive wild animal, rabies treatment is started whether the animal can be captured or not.  In fact, there is no question when the animal cannot be captured.  Normally this would be a bat, a fox, a raccoon, or a bobcat.  If a vaccinated domestic animal is bitten by one of the above, it’s quarantined.  If it isn’t vaccinated, say goodbye to Fluffy or Fido.  It will still be quarantined, but the outcome is…not promising.

Which brings me to Pasteur.  The people in his lab went out and captured dogs who clearly had rabies and brought them back to the lab for study.  Inside the lab, they kept a loaded pistol.  If any one of them had been bitten, one of the others would have shot him.

Another sort of side story is that Pasteur had satisfied himelf that he had created a post-infection vaccine that would work in animals, but was still reluctant to test it on humans.  When at last he did so it was on a nine-year old boy named Joseph Meister.  As a man, Meister became the concierge of the Insitut Pasteur.  I now quote:  “When the Nazis, on occupying Paris, attempted to visit the Pasteur crypt [located in the Institute] in 1940, Meister bravely refused to unlock the gate for them.  Soon after this discouraging event, he took his own life”.

Pasteur was not a doctor, and had to enlist the aid of one to actually administer the injections to Meister.  At that time it was a series of something like 13 injections over ten days or so, that would be very painful.  Today it’s four injections in the arm.

I could never write a post long enough to cover the wealth of information in this book. As usual, I have only hit the highlights as I see them.  But I’ve omitted the sad and almost amusing explanations people had for the cause of rabies, pre-Pasteur. And rabies has been around as long as (if not longer) than there have been mammals.

But a final few words about bats.  Bats are one of my favorite animals.  Before the construction of Walmart in my neighborhood, which drove them away, I used to love sitting at my backyard picnic table at dusk and watching the bats.  They would often fly so close to me I could hear their wings whirr.  You have to steel yourself to an extent, not to flinch.  You have this irrational fear that one will become entangled in your hair.  Of course that never happened.  That sonar thing really does work.  Bats have the extra added attraction of eating mosquitos.  Anything that eats mosquitos is on my side (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.)

I’ve always known that bats carry rabies, and if one ever did become tangled in my hair, it would mean it was sick and I should carry myself to the nearest Emergency Room forthwith, hopefully with (dead) bat in hand.

Still I was saddened to read this:  “Bat bites are now the cause of nearly all human rabies infections in the United States, accounting for 32 out of 33 deaths from domestic exposure since 1990”.  And, “Bat bites are so subtle that people can be unaware of it, especially in the night, when a bat bite is sometimes not even painful enough to wake a sleeping human.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anyone who awakens with a bat in his or room seek out vaccination for rabies.  Likewise, any unattended child or mentally incapacitated person found in the presence of a bat should be treated as if he or she were exposed”.

The book is a great blend of science, human and natural history, and amusing anecdotes despite the gravity of the subject.

Translating Dog Language

Dogs don’t really have language, since “Arf”, “Whine”, and “Growl”, do not constitute language, even if you string them all together in the same sentence.

On the other hand, it might be one, since no one has yet really defined what language is.  Or why human speech came to be.  As a (mostly recovering) anthropology major in college, I have a passing interest in linguistics.  Now, after all this time, here is what I think:  humans define what language is, and we’re handicapped by an inability to define it otherwise.  It’s Schrodinger’s cat. The victors write the history.  Those kinds of things.

We are getting better, I think.  We finally understand that whales and dolphins are at least talking to each other, even if we don’t understand what they’re saying.

What would happen if we actually found extraterrestrial life?  I am reminded of a column by the great humorist Dave Barry, who said if his wife were involved and it looked microbial, she would kill it with a spray bottle of Clorox.  So much for science.

But I digress.  No one who knows dogs or has had a dog would doubt that they communicate.  And dogs, in my view, are almost the only animals who care about whether you understand them or not.  But they have to mostly do that with behavior.  But think about it.  Humans do too.  Language gives us the ability to lie.

So, since my dog Troughton died on Wednesday, the other dog, Pippin, has been acting squirrely.

When I got home from the vet’s about 7:15 that evening, he went into mega-sniff mode–which he always does to an extent, whenever any other member of the pack goes somewhere with me that he wasn’t invited.  He’s like, “Tell me your story”.  Because this is the way he apprehends the world–through scent.  He might get it slightly wrong, but humans do too, with speech.

I was not happy with this, because I imagined that the smells I came home with did not tell the story I would like to have told.

It turned out that the vet’s office, which recently expanded its hospital, has a special euthanasia room, or that’s what I think.  I blurted out, Wow.  This is like hospice.  And it was.  There was a deep brown leather love seat against the wall.  An Oriental rug.  An “exam” table with a black marble top.

The vet tech had to carry Troughton there, and he was in the floor by the love seat.  He was fading fast.

So when I came home, I think I smelled like death. Death in general, but with the death of Troughton in the mix.

I have anecdotal evidence of this.  According the rescue group people I know, at the public shelter when they come into the dog “ward” and remove a dog for euthanasia, all the other dogs start howling, as if they know what is about to happen.  They miss their fellow prisoner, and are afraid they will be next.  I think that’s true, but I think it’s because the scrubs the people are wearing smell like death.

After Pippin’s Sniff Fest, he ignored me for the next 24 hours.  It was like if he got near me, I would capture him, take him away, and he would never come back either.

The next morning, he wouldn’t eat his food, because the routine was always that Troughton’s food bowl got filled first.  So he kept waiting for me to put food in Troughton’s dish.  Same deal last night.

This morning he seemed to have come to some sort of understanding.  He ate his food, and he let me pet him.  It’s been less than 72 hours.  Must be nice.