The Weight Deadens on Your Shoulders

Image: The Pooch, 12/26/2006-09/04/2017

[Image: The Pooch (12/26/2006-09/04/2017). Photo taken 8/21/2017. She was an unwilling photographic subject: if you held up a smartphone or camera in her direction — which you always wanted to do, you couldn’t help it — she’d turn her head aside, as here, while keeping a gimlet eye trained on you. She was a cute dog, often involved in cute activities, but the only way to document them was to shoot a bazillion shots and just pray that one would be suitable.]

No whiskey river Friday this week; I just cannot work up the enthusiasm.

The Pooch (that is to say, Sophie) died this past Monday morning, towards the tail end of a long weekend for all three of us. She was all right, and then she wasn’t.

Okay, true: she wasn’t “all right” healthwise — but then again, she never had been. Small dogs often have breathing problems of one sort or another. In The Pooch’s case, she had an issue called “collapsing trachea”: the windpipe over time slackens, just at a point where it bends. Eventually, it slackens enough to close up completely, with the expected results. One of the chief early symptoms of a collapsing trachea is occasional coughing, often in the form of so-called “reverse coughing”: it sounds sorta like a cough, sorta like a sneeze, and often has hints of a goose’s honk. So we knew, early on, that eventually the problem would take her.

(It’s not “treatable,” by the way. Oh, you can administer cover-ups like cough suppressants. Surgically, a couple of things can be done, to strengthen the trachea artificially. They all come with potential side-effects and, in some cases, the side-effects can be much, much worse than the condition itself. Even so, surgical options were out of the question for The Pooch: she was so small, and the risks bloomed proportionately.)

But knowing that something awful will happen seldom seems to fully prepare you for its, well, happening. The Missus and I have spent the week in a fog of crying jags triggered by nothing in particular except the weight of a new, awful, sudden vacancy. (I think today was the first time I’ve ever broken down while taking a shower, surrounded by nothing at all to remind me of her except, yes, that very vacancy.) We’ve lost other pets. And yes, we’ll come out of this grief eventually — but boy, this one has hit us hard.

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How to Stupefy a Small Dog

[Image: not The Pooch. Depicts the desired outcome, however.]

In the Harry Potter wizarding universe, most spells are cast using incantations of a vaguely Latin(ish) form: Cruciato! Expecto patronum! Wingardium leviosa! and so on.

The sole exception which I can think of off the top of my head: Stupefy! When cast in magical combat, you will recall, this spell renders the target incapable of movement. Combatants who have been Stupefied fall, rigid, to the floor or the ground — effectively (albeit temporarily) removing them from further battle.

I don’t particularly care in my everyday life that I cannot, say, summon my Patronus. But Stupefy? Oh my. Let it be so. (Especially if it can be fine-tuned, like a handheld Star Trek phaser, from disorient all the way up to vaporize.)

I’m still trying to work up the nerve to attempt Stupefaction of a human being. But I’ve tried it many times with The Pooch… and I can report that it’s not as easy as it looks in the movies. (Neither is being shot out of a cannon. A topic for a later post, perhaps.)

Still, it can be done. Herewith, results of my research to date.

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Real-Life Monologue (Anthropomorphism Edition)

[For information about this photo, which doesn’t precisely relate to the post,
see the note at the bottom.]

The scene: A suburban home in northern Florida, USA. He is trying to get the household denizens out the door promptly in the morning. He has walked and scooped up after The Pooch. He has fed The Pooch; He has fed The Cat. He has prepared the snacks/lunches which He and She will need during their respective workdays. The Pooch, at the gate to the kitchen, tosses her paper plate in the air, signaling breakfast done-age and, hence, ordering a second course. He ignores her. He sets out the various daily medications which He and She take. The Pooch barks. He ignores her. He brings the newspaper in. The Pooch noses her empty plate around on the tile floor. He ignores her. He gets His water bottle from the refrigerator. The Pooch barks again.

He (to The Pooch): Jesus Christ, all right already, I hear you! You think you’re the only person in the house?!?


About the photo: We have a wet bar in the living room, and after we get home from work at the end of the day one or the other of us will usually go there to make a drink. We stock the bottles of sweet-and-smoky-smelling liquids in a cabinet below the sink, as you can see at the right of this photo. About eight of every ten times we do this, The Pooch comes to her water bowl to drink, as shown (here wearing her red Team Woof hoodie). This completely cracks us up.

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Real-Life Dialogue (Midday Meal Edition)

[Setting: a small automobile in a mid-sized city in northern Florida, USA. It is early morning. She is driving today; He occupies the passenger seat. The car pulls up to a curb. He opens his door and prepares to exit; in the midst of the usual love-yous, good-byes, and have-a-good-days, He suddenly remembers a specific item about which He meant to wish Her well.]

He: You’re going to lunch with The Stepdaughter today, aren’t you?

She: Yes.

He: Oh, well, have a good lunch then!

She: You have a good lunch, too. Did you bring tuna today?

He: No. Chicken salad.

She: You didn’t bring some of that beautiful tuna salad you made?

He: What tuna salad? I didn’t make any tuna salad.

She: That whole bowl of it in the refrigerator—

He: That’s not tuna salad. It’s homemade dog food for The Pooch — dog food you made!

She: (laughing) Oh.

The car drives away. There is no traffic, but He remains standing there for another moment or so — standing, and collecting his wits.

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Hits and Misses

Complicated here, during the last week. Not bad, just… complicated. Thought I’d sort of summarize a couple of points of potential interest, but first, a question for regular visitors:

Have you had problems accessing RAMH recently? One of your number has reported getting repeated “the connection was reset by the server” errors. It’s prevented her from even seeing the site, apparently. (I got the information via a Facebook message.) I haven’t been able to reproduce it from any of various locations, using various browsers and operating systems. But I wanted to check before proceeding to see if anything like that has cropped up for the rest of you. (Of course — ha! — if it has, then you won’t be able to read this post.)

Okay, now onto “real” matters…

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Things vs. Other Things

Dear Internet,

Sorry I’ve been so… so… casual about our relationship over the last few days.

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Canine Savagery

They say we shouldn’t anthropomorphize animals. We shouldn’t project onto their behaviors human motivations, so goes the advice; maybe we could develop a Maslow’s pyramid for them without stretching too much, but it’d be a mistake to give them them an upper level labeled “self-actualization.”

Still, you know, it’s hard — almost impossible — not to at least ask questions about mysterious animal behavior. Why are they doing X?, What’s the survival or evolutionary value of Y?, and so on.

Given a red-rubber toy like the one shown here, and little crunchy treats wedged into the opening, a dog (they say) will of course attempt to get the treats out. The act of figuring it out, and then executing it, can occupy (they say) a dog’s mind for long blocks of time.

All this theory seems to work just fine with The Pooch in our household. What we can’t figure out is what, exactly, was the… hmm… the decision-making process which led to her particular solution. The solution goes something like this:

  • Bark madly in anticipation while toy and treat are being merged by human’s clever forepaws.
  • When toy is tossed onto the floor, launch yourself in its pursuit.
  • Attack toy by, uh, barking madly as you push at it with the side of your head.
  • Occasionally switch to dental-attack mode, until human expresses interest in toy.
  • When hapless human expresses interest, get toy immediately out of human reach.
  • Carry off toy’s lifeless (or at least deafened) corpse to somewhere safe, where it and the treat may be successfully taken apart.
  • Continue barking intermittently, apparently just out of the sheer joy of unchained doggishness.

Now, unlike the stereotypical small dog, The Pooch — a Yorkshire terrier weighing less than five pounds — is not generally a yapper. But give her one of these toys and she loses all mooring in common sense.

Exhibit A, my first YouTube upload ever:

Frightening, eh wot?

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