Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

In Which We Let the Dog Out of the Bag...

Busy week here. Well, every week’s been a busy week, but I’m committed to putting something up here more regularly than once every 90 days.

So in lieu of the usual, I’m sending you over to a fun blog called Coffee with a Canine. We were invited to participate a couple of weeks back and Blaze agreed before I even had a chance to think about it. But I’m glad he did. It’s a neat concept, and we enjoyed being part of it. So grab a cup of joe and head on over.

More soon.

Yours,
From Somewhere on the Masthead

Friday, February 19, 2010

 

In Which We Report Some Startling Results...

During lunch, Patrick, the Dingleberry I was saddled with as my lab partner, came over and sat at my table, his hand out in a gimme-gimme gesture.

“Need your lab report,” he said. “I forgot to copy down the results from the experiment.”

I stared at him for a moment, wondering if he really expected me to believe this obvious lie. I had watched only a few days earlier as he scribbled down the results from our latest experiment—something to do with the effects of certain acids on various materials, including baking soda, modeling clay, and several other things (I forget, really. After high school, my interest in the area of acids and bases didn’t extend beyond understanding how a handful of Tums works the morning of a really bad hangover, so it’s all a bit of blur).

I was automatically cagey. You would have been too if Patrick had been a pain in your ass for the previous three years. “I didn’t finish it yet. I’m working on it in study hall next period. But you can copy the results from my notebook right now,” I offered, handing him my spiralbound lab book. I figured it was the quickest way to get rid of him.

He shook his head. “Nah. Just gimme the whole report when you come in for history,” he said. Patrick and I also shared history class, the class just before science.

“What do you need my whole report for?” I asked.

He sneered at me across the lunch table. “Whayaneemywholereporfor?” he mimicked in a whiny, nasally way. “Just give it to me, butt-munch,” he said, chortling to himself. “Butt-munch” represented the absolute zenith of name-calling humor for Patrick. Then he glowered at me. “I’ll be waiting for you out in the hall. Don’t be a dickwad about it or you’ll be sorry,” he said, then shoved himself away from my table and slouched off to join his cronies over in the Dingleberry quadrant of our high school lunchroom.

I sat there for a moment, drumming my fingers on the table and staring at the remains of my lunch—hot dogs and potato chips—for which I no longer had an appetite. Pat hadn’t threatened me in quite this way since 8th grade, but he was still a pure-D bully. And I must confess, back then I was the poster boy for wimpy, bespectacled 98-pound weaklings everywhere (not like the taut ball of muscularity I am today, baby). If I didn’t give him what he wanted—

Just then, I realized I was being watched and looked up. From the next table over I locked eyes with a guy I’ll call Mac, a rather portly member of our class. He was good friends with my missing lab partner—poor Harry, who had broken his leg and was going to be out for several weeks. Mac was just smirking at me and shaking his head, but not in an entirely unkindly way.

“What?” I said.

“Nothing,” he answered, then laboriously got up and squished himself into the seat across from me. “Just wondered how long that was going to take. Let me guess: Pat wanted your lab report.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Says he just needs the results, but he wants the whole report. I think he’s just going to copy the whole thing.”

Mac snorted at my naivete. “Well, no duh. Harry’s been writing them for him all year.”

This bit the biscuit. “What?”

Mac nodded. “Patrick copied one of Harry’s whole reports—word for word—and when the teacher compared them and confronted them, they both got detention. After that, Harry just wrote a different one for Patrick and he’d recopy it and hand it in.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. I hadn’t known about any of this. Harry certainly hadn’t said anything. But then, Harry and I weren’t exactly buddies. And it occurred to me that in Harry’s shoes, I wouldn’t have said anything either. It would have been too humiliating to admit I was writing two lab reports every week just to keep the class bully off my back.

Mac nodded sympathetically as this sank in, then he looked earnestly at me. “Hey, if you’re not gonna finish your lunch, can I have it?”

As I watched Mac inhale my leftovers, I gathered my books to get ready for next period, study hall. I opened my organizer and stared for a second at my lab report—of course it was finished, I had been lying to Patrick. I looked at the first page, the introduction and the hypothesis and all the other stuff we had to explain in our lab report. Then I flipped the page to where we were supposed to explain the experiment, analyze the data and explain the results. I sighed. I sure wasn’t going to give him my only copy of my lab report, but this was going to take me forever to recopy. I had (still have) terrible handwriting and it took a long while for me to write something legible in long-hand.

Then the bell rang and I stuffed everything into my bag and hurried off to study hall. I threw myself into my seat and grabbed a fresh piece of paper. I only had an hour to write a new copy for Patrick—not much time for me.

“Hey,” said Dino, the guy who sat in front of me.

“Hey,” I responded without looking up.

“Writing Patrick’s lab report for him?”

Now I did look up. “What the hell? Was it on the news?”

Dino just smiled sympathetically and returned to his book. I glanced around, imagining that everyone in the room was looking me, knowing that I was Patrick’s mutt. Suddenly, I was annoyed. The wheels started turning in my head, which was often a bad thing for me at that tender age. When I got annoyed, those wheels often spun off in directions that weren’t very good for me.

Alas, that didn’t stop me. I began writing.

My hand was pretty cramped up from 45 minutes of writing, and I was shaking it vigorously as the bell rang and I walked upstairs to history class. Good as his word, Patrick was waiting for me at the door. Wordlessly, I handed him the lab report I wrote for him and brushed by him into class. And immediately began to second-guess what I’d just done.

I loved history, but I confess I have no clue what the class was about. I spent most of the next hour watching Patrick as he furtively read off my paper and copied what I wrote in his own degenerate hand. Any minute now, I thought. Sweat wasn’t just rolling down my back, it was flying in drops from the top of my head like a cartoon character’s.

After what seemed like about 30 years, the bell rang. I tensed, waiting. But Patrick simply scribbled furiously for a few seconds more, then got up, Frisbee’d my paper at me and sauntered out the door to science class. Numb, I collected the paper, stuffed it way in the back of my organizer, got out my original copy and went on to class. As we all filed in to the lab, I dropped my paper at our teacher’s desk and took up my seat at Lab Table #2 opposite Patrick, who made a face at me. I just goggled at him. How could he not have realized--? I wondered. Then Mr. Schelder, our teacher, came in with a handful of explosive and caustic chemicals and announced that day’s mayhem.

A couple of days later—and it was a long couple of days--Mr. Schelder handed back our lab reports, except for one. He held it up for the class.

“I’ve got a really interesting lab report here,” he said, trying to look a little stern, but he was smiling too broadly. “Patrick,” he said. “This is some paper. I’d like you to come up here and read it to the class.”

Oh shit, here we go, I thought, looking down at the table and breathing hard. Then I hazarded a glance up, expecting to see my death in the Dingleberry’s eyes. Instead, he had a startled, somewhat frightened look. But he quickly rearranged his face into a smirk and sauntered up to the front of the class. He started reading from the first page, a slightly reworded but more or less accurate introduction and explanation of our hypothesis for the lab work.

“You know what?” Mr. Schelder said, interrupting him. “Skip to the results.”

Patrick looked at him, then out at the class, licked his lips and began to read in a slightly cracking version of his usual drawling voice. He read through our results in applying acid to the first two samples we tested in lab, then went on to the last sample, reading word for word exactly what I had written just for him. And it went something like this:

In sample 3, we observed unusual results in applying three teaspoons of the acid compound to the sample, a block of modeling clay. Instead of dissolving the sample or being neutralized, however, the acid caused a chemical reaction which transformed the clay into a cylindrical organic compound composed of meat and meat byproduct.

This rare reaction was first observed by Dr. O. Mayer in the early 20th century. The phenomenon, known in scientific circles as mayermorphosis, revolutionized the food industry. Dr. Mayer patented the discovery and made a fortune as a purveyor of these tubular miracles of science.

To confirm that the process of mayermorphosis was complete, we applied a teaspoon of chemical formula CA(t) Su P to the phenomenon and consumed it.

Half the class was giggling at this point, much to Patrick’s confusion and Mr. Schelder’s great joy (I was busy staring at the floor, willing myself not to crack a smile or laugh in any way, knowing I would be struck dead if I did).

“Wow,” Mr. Schelder said. “So you mixed acid with modeling clay and the whole thing turned into an Oscar Mayer wiener?”

Well, you can’t say the word “wiener” in a room full of high-school sophomores without explosive results. Everyone cracked up (except me), while Patrick just stared, looking back and forth helplessly between the class and the page of the lab report I’d written just for him.

“Wow,” Mr. Schelder said again, with forced wonder. “Spontaneous mayermorphosis here in my lab. Good job, Patrick. Enjoy that F, you clown.”

Then a little cheer went up from parts of the class—mostly from Patrick’s friends—and everyone laughed and clapped. Patrick did a little bow, and on his way back to the lab table, he tromped on my foot, hard.

I knew I wasn’t going to get in trouble with the teacher for writing Patrick’s report—the Dingleberry wouldn’t dare admit he’d copied off of me. But I spent a few weeks after that waiting to have my ass handed to me by Patrick and his friends, especially since Mr. Schelder ran with the joke in every single class thereafter, both when taking attendance (“Lisa? Bill? Dr. Mayer? Dr. Oscar Mayer, are you here?”) and while walking among the tables to check on our results (“How’s wienie roast going over here, guys?”), but the ass-handing never happened. Gradually, it dawned on me that Patrick had let me off the hook. After all, I had given him exactly what he wanted—more attention—so I guess my plan backfired on that score.

On the other hand, he never bugged me for my lab report again.

After that year, I didn’t have Patrick in any more of my classes. I was on the college track (I assume Patrick was on the loser track) and so I went on to a tougher chemistry course, once again in Mr. Schelder’s lab, although this time my lab partners were all girls, who were a significant improvement over my previous partner, let me tell you: pretty and fresh-smelling, all of them gorgeous samples of clay shaped by a kind and loving God. And they never, to the best of my knowledge, lit their farts with Bunsen burners.

I rarely think of Patrick any more—once you lose a Dingleberry, you don’t spend a lot of time imagining what he might be up to, circling the drain of life. But every so often, I do wonder if he ever thinks of me, perhaps at a cookout or a ballgame, just before he takes a bite of his hot dog. I wonder if he ever thinks of the kid who transformed him, however briefly, into the biggest wiener in class.

And then I don’t think about him anymore.

Yours,
From Somewhere on the Masthead

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

 

In Which We Resume Our Supper Stories...

One of the great things about having your family back with you after four months of isolation is that you can once again tell stories at suppertime without the distraction of passersby glancing in the windows and wondering why you’re just sitting there talking to yourself.

The Brownie usually wants animal stories along specific themes—That Time Blaze Saved (insert member of the family here); How the Bat/Raccoon/Owl/Freaking Long Snake Got in the House; or The Curious Incident of the Cat that Got Stuck in Some Improbable Place--there’s quite a selection here: garbage bags, sleeper sofas, pool-table pockets, washers AND dryers, between a window and a screen, and inside a running car engine (a memorable anecdote for all concerned, especially Sammy the cat, who made quite a racket when he got sucked into the fan of my grandfather’s car. He emerged alive, but lived to the end of his 23 years with a healthy fear of cars. And one ear.)

Thomas, meanwhile, seems to be leaning toward cautionary tales, object lessons, and stories with some form of self-help advice mixed in. I think it’s finally dawned on him that Dad not only had some kind of life before he arrived, but may even have been an 11 year-old boy like him (albeit at some distant epoch in the past).

As I believe was mentioned in his guest post, our intrepid 5th grader is muddling his way through some 6th grade classes, including science, where he has been assigned lab partners. Teamwork of this nature is new to him, and so are all of the challenges that come with the group dynamic, particularly when it comes to carrying a malingering coworker.

“This kid doesn’t do anything. He just sits there and makes fun of our work—he said I was using too many big words and who was I showing off for anyway?” Thomas huffed after an early encounter. “But then he copies all of it down and we all get the same grade. But he deserves an F. F like in f--"

“Like in frustration?” I added helpfully, seeing the look of shock manifesting on his mother’s face. “Or maybe a D, like Dingleberry? That’s what we used to call the lazy kids who just hung off the kids who did all the work.”

Thomas liked that (Her Lovely Self, less so). “Why can’t the teacher just put all the Dingleberries in their own group so they can fail together?” he asked.

Of course, that’s not how it works. I gave Thomas the usual wise-parent stuff straight out of the handbook: how group assignments serve two purposes—earning a grade and learning how to work together with people of differing personalities and skill-sets. And I told him that this was good training for the future because unless you choose the life of a hermit or a recluse, you have to figure out how to get along with others, in work and in life.

But his eyes were glazing over—much as yours are now, I’m sure—and so I added, “Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little revenge now and then.” And that led to a story of my own encounter with a Dingleberry.

I was a little older than 11 when I first had to deal with Patrick. He was the class bully when I started in 8th grade at a new school. He had come close to beating the crap out of me once, but my old pal God smote him with an asthma attack and I had to drag him to the nurse’s office. He almost never touched me again, but he never forgave me for saving his life either. And so, when we ended up at the same high school together, Patrick became a chronic vocal annoyance in my life: inventing a wide variety of effeminate names to call me; heckling me whenever it was my turn to stand up and give a report. And like Thomas’ Dingleberry, he regularly made fun of my slightly above-average vocabulary.

I learned to tune Patrick out over time, but then, in my sophomore year, I was placed in a position where I could not easily avoid him. That position was Table #2 in the Physical Sciences lab of our high school. My sophomore science class was a mash-up of chemistry and physics, taught by Mr. Schelder, whom I remember as a genial if not exactly brilliant teacher. But at least he didn’t teach entirely from the book--he loved to make us do lab work and from almost day one of the class, we were messing about with Bunsen burners and volatile chemical compounds of every stripe.

This was something of a saving grace for me. I never excelled in any science class, but I could observe and report results with the best of them and so I reveled in the idea of doing practical work. Until Mr. Schelder told us that we had to work as a team with whoever was at our lab table, and that half our grade was going to be based on the group work we did.

And of course, Patrick was at my lab table.

I was none too thrilled about this. Neither was our other lab partner Harry, a bright classmate who had gone to school with Patrick since about 2nd grade and hated him more than I (insofar as such a thing was possible). I was never very good friends with Harry, but we bonded that long year, exchanging many rolled eyes and freighted sighs as we diligently tried to complete various experiments in spite of Dingleberry Patrick.

Who, predictably enough, could be relied on to be more hindrance than help on lab days. If you were pouring something acidic into a beaker, you could count on him to yell in your ear or nudge your elbow at a crucial moment, leaving you with a chemical burn on your hands or a vivid bleached mark on your shirt or pants. And whenever Mr. Schelder had departed to the supply closet for more chemicals, Patrick’s party piece was to grab a lit Bunsen burner and ignite his farts for the amusement and/or disgust of the rest of the class. So it went.

Harry and I dutifully recorded the results of each experiment, which we were compelled to share with Patrick, who could never be counted to assist us, but was always most attentive when we were scribbling down temperature changes or calculating the volume of something. I consoled myself with the knowledge that, while we were graded as a group on our lab work, we each had to write our own lab reports (and were graded separately for those). Patrick may have earned a free ride when it came sharing our results, but he had to explain and interpret those results on his own in his report. I could only hope he was earning straight F’s, because he was one big f-ing pain to me that year. I had the chemical stains and burn marks to prove it.

I confess I sometimes wished Patrick might meet with an accident—another asthma attack from inhaling caustic fumes, say, or a scorched colon from clenching his sphincter at an inopportune moment and accidentally sucking the gas flame up into his body. But the only one who got injured was that year was Harry. During the winter, he broke his leg in some complicated way that required him to be in a cast from his toes to his belly-button and put him out of school for several weeks. A bit of a downer for him, I’m sure. But who cares about him? It was me that had to deal with Patrick on his own now.

And on our first week’s lab work without Harry, I came to discover just how much poor Harry had been carrying Patrick...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

 

Special Guest Star: Me (Art Lad)!!!!!

Well, Dad says I can write something here so I did.

He got a new job and we moved out of our old house. I still miss it. It was a good place and my friends lived all on the street and in school. I’m pen pals with a couple of them now, but it’s not the same.

We had to go to a new school right after Christmas and that was WEIRD. It’s a school where you have to wear a uniform but not like an Army soldier or policeman, but like black and tan pants and a shirt with a collar and stuff. Everyone is nice but it’s not the same.

I’m in 5th grade now and that means I have to go to different classes. My homeroom teacher is nice, but on my first day there wasn’t even A DESK for me so I had to stand up in the back with all my books and coats and things, and everyone was looking at me.

I’m supposed to be in 5th grade, but when I went to math class, they were doing stuff I did last year and it was boring. So Mom talked to the teacher and now I have math class with the 6th graders, so I’m like this total baby of the class. The same thing happened in science. And I don’t even do spelling anymore. I can spell everything. Onomatopoeia. See?

And we work in teams now. I have three boys on my team in science and one of them is always making fun of me for being just 11 (but I am taller than him). He doesn’t do any work. He just copies off what me and the other boys do. Dad calls him Captain Dingleberry because he just hangs off your butt and doesn’t do anything. Dad says you have to work in teams for the rest of your life and Dingleberrys are everywhere so he says it’s good to learn how to deal.

He told me a really funny story about a Dingleberry he had in high school that he pulled a good trick on. It was funny. He said he’ll put the story in here soon.

I looked at my Artlad blog the other day and it was weird. I remember doing some of it. I remember all the pictures and talking to Dad and him writing it down. I read all the comments and people making a big deal, but I don’t know. I was 5 or 6. I guess I just got interested in other stuff. But I get the Uranus joke now! I was a funny kid.

Dad says I can put some stuff over there today, so go look. I need advice on my new video ideas.

We have a new house to live in, but it’s owned by Dad’s boss. She lives down the street and is real nice and is letting us stay here all winter. Even Blaze got to go. Whew! Dad thought at first dogs were against the rules because there are already a couple of big ones outside, so we thought Blaze would have to stay with Uncle BB. But he worked it out. I’m glad because I was nervous sleeping in our new place and Blaze sleeps on my bed every night. He used to only do stuff with my sisters but now he’s almost like my dog. It’s good because I wake up at night and think about stuff and can’t go back to sleep and he’s always there. He is a really GOOD dog.

But there’s a bad part. I have to SHARE A ROOM with my sister. She got the best bed (it’s big and it has buttons that let you raise it up and down like on that sleep number commercial) and she hogs the bathroom and closet so all my clothes go on the floor. Mom says I leave them on the floor because I’m a boy BUT SHE IS WRONG. Girls are way messier and leave stuff everywhere. Combs and hair stuff and wet towels and all kinds of stuff. I just have shirts and pants and a toothbrush.

Here is a picture I took of my sisters. Anna wouldn't smile because she says looking at me doesn't make her want to smile. So she does THIS with her face.

Sisters

Mom says that is smirking. I call it a SMIRN because it is like a smirk and frown together.

My baby sister has her whole own room. She is a lot like Anna was. All bossy. Except she likes me sometimes. She calls me Brubby or sometimes just Brub. It means Brother. I pull her in the wagon and help her go down the stairs so she won’t fall. I have to carry her sometimes, but it’s okay because she hugs me and pats my back. It’s gooshy but kind of nice all at the same time. Here is another picture. Mom took it.

Boy and Girls



I was sad to move here but it’s getting better. I like having Dad around because it was just me and Blaze against the girls before. He was the baby in the class too and he tells me stories to cheer me up. I made a couple of friends at school—a nice girl named Hadley who is REALLY tall (Dad calls her Hagrid, like the giant in Harry Potter, but I don’t call her that.) And a boy named Hunter who wants me to sign up for sports with him. I like that. We have more sports we can do. Before it was just baseball, but they have track and field here so we signed up for that. I can run pretty fast.

I’m reading a lot. They have a great library here and I am reading the Percy Jackson books and want to see the movie when it comes out. I have a book that I write stories in. I am doing one about robot spiders that travel back in time to steal dinosaurs. We have to write a lot in school now. For homework I have to write two pages both sides about moving here. So this is my homework. It took me two whole days to write. You can hand write it or print it. I’ll print it out and hand it in.

But I’ll take out the Dingleberry and the part about Hadley being called Hagrid.

I just read this all to Dad and he says I am getting good at writing. He’s going to show me how to do links over to Artlad.

Wow. I wrote about 1,000 words! That is a world record!

Well, bye!

Your friend,
Thomas

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

 

Of the Treaty I Struck, and of a Discourse on Eating Squirrels Instead of Monkeys...

Permit me to share with you a truth about dogs: We are not ones for drama, for prolonging events, for creating suspense. This is for people. And cats, I suppose. For us, a good story has a simple, succinct beginning, middle, and end.

So while it amused me to engage in the cliffhanger device the Man so often falls upon in a feeble attempt to generate interest in his chittering, I cannot admit that I feel any great desire to follow his example. Well, not all the time anyway.

Forgive me, then, for leaving you in medias res, as they say. And allow me to remedy any sense of drama or suspense you might have been feeling since last I left you, when I was protecting my pack from two oncoming killer German shepherds.

(Although if pressed, I’m forced to admit you should have had none of these feelings from the outset. With me, well, you know where you are with me. If it were the Man writing this, who knows what would have happened? One hopes, I suppose, that he would have saved his children, and then, given his luck, ended up being eaten by the dogs.)

(I’m sorry. I need a moment to savor that image.)

It has been some time since I had to fight two dogs at once, particularly two German shepherds which, in the interest of sparing them further humiliation, I shall provide with nondescript pseudonyms. Let’s call them, oh, Adolf and Eva.

In a fight where the odds are against you, I find it is always beneficial to engage in psychological warfare, and to use misdirection as time and the situation warrants. You may feel free to adopt my methods as follows, should you ever find yourself in such straits.

In this particular instance, I was able to perform a quick and (if I say it myself) nimble sidestep to the right in front of the children, establishing a skirmishing line. It can be challenging enough on four legs, but I was compelled to do it on three, with my left rear leg, er, deployed, marking the ground in front of me in a wide arc that I regret—but only partially—went a little too wide and spattered the Man’s pantleg (and my, did he dance!)

Then, I Postured. This involved crouching into spring mode while simultaneously raising every hair on my body and announcing myself with authority.

“Death greets any who dare cross the Yellow Line!” I barked.

And the dogs stopped. Several feet from the line. The Posturing worked.

While the Man muttered incomprehensibles to the Woman (something about an Invisible Fence at the edge of the walking path?), Adolf and Eva stood just feet away, growling and muttering their Teutonic threats. Then they began to sniff where I had marked (misdirection accomplished), being careful only to extend their snouts slightly. Clearly they were afraid to come no farther.

Finally, the alpha of the pair, Eva, spoke to me in our Common Tongue.

“We guard this territory, Trespasser,” she said.

“Kill kill kill. All other dogs die. There are fleas in my brain. Kill kill!” Adolf added helpfully. He was by far the older dog. I suspect he suffers from a form of senile canine dementia. I addressed only Eva.

“I claim this territory on behalf of my pack. If you wish to continue to guard it, you do so at my sufferance,” I growled.

“And who are you to claim this place we have guarded for so long?” Eva demanded.

“Kill kill!” Adolf muttered.

“I am the protector of this pack, and in particular of the Queen Baby, the Girl, and the Boy. We now reside in the house behind you and will—“

Eva cocked her head. “You live in the house?”

“We have just arrived,” I said.

Eva shook her head, then glanced back at Adolf (“Kill kill!” he advised. I gather he is not much of a conversationalist when he is off-duty.) Then she looked at me. “But—but even we have never been permitted in the house. No dog has ever lived there!”

“Well, I am like no dog who has ever lived,” I replied.

“That’s right!” The Queen Baby cried from behind me. Did I mention she is perfectly fluent in my tongue? I did raise her from a puppy.

And from there, we began to treat with one another, as dogs of good will can do when they choose to reason together. We exchanged a few pleasantries, Eva complimented me on my Rottweiler build and coloring (inherited from my father).

“Your people come from the Fatherland,” she said. “Then we are near to kin, First Dog in the House.”

And so, with a new name to add to my other, I closed the distance between them. Adolf backed away, watching as I led the children toward our new neighbors. Eva and I formally saluted one another, each of us nose to tail, and naturally the Man had to break the mood with inane chatter, which I shall transcribe for your amusement:

“Hey, you know kids, your grandfather once told me why dogs sniff each other’s butts. Once upon a time, every dog in the world came to a card game—you know, like in those velvet paintings I like so much. Anyway, as they came in through the door, they each had to hang their butts, tail and all, on a hook, then went in and took their seats. Well, in the middle of a big hand, some smart-mouth dog—who was losing—yelled ‘Fire!’ and all the dogs ran out of there. In the rush, they just grabbed whatever butt was on the hook and put it on. So to this day, dogs sniff each other’s butts, hoping to find their own.”

Honestly.

“Is that true?” the Queen Baby asked me.

“Of course not,” I said, when I had finished my salute. “Now stay by me and I’ll take you inside for a fine game of throw-the-squeaky-toy.” I turned to Eva. “I to my work and you to yours, Guardian of the Territory. I trust when my pack is outside, you will protect them as well as you watch these grounds.”

Eva stiffened in salute. “Your pack is my pack,” she said, which was the correct response. Then she sniffed at the Man, who had fallen some distance behind us. “And the monkey?”

I hazarded a bit of sarcasm. “Oh. Well. Him you can have.”

In the moment, I had reckoned without Adolf who, upon hearing this, took me literally and with a sharp cry of “KILL!KILL!” threw himself at the Man.

I confess I was tempted. I mean, he seems so to enjoy the spectacle he makes when he is the object of injury. In some backwards primate way, it occurred to me that he might appreciate the moment of drama and suspense, even if it was his last.

But he does have his uses, and it would be such a lot of mess to have to explain, and so I dashed to save him. Once again.

It was a brief tussle—not even a fight, really. Adolf is an old dog with bad hindquarters, so a simple neck-hold sufficed.

When I released him, I said, “Stick to squirrels, my friend. They have a nutty flavor, nothing so gamey and stringy as this fellow.”

“Kill,” Adolf said, by way of agreement, and promptly left. Eva nodded to me once more (I think she likes me), then followed her friend.

And we returned to the house.

You see? Simple, succinct, beginning, middle, and end. None of this suspense business.

And so we reside, safe and warm, our borders well-protected. And the Man is yet deeper in my debt. I should like to redeem that debt one of these days, and suggest that he keep his big banana-eating mouth shut for a while (no more than a year or so). But he seems never to understand a word I utter.

Perhaps the Queen Baby will deign to tell him for me. I must remember to ask her when next we speak.

Your Humble Servant,
Blazey, First Dog in the House

Friday, February 05, 2010

 

Enough, I yelp! Enough!

Sigh. It's just as they say: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Clearly, in this particular case, if you wanting something done at all, you have to get your dog to do it.

And so I come to you now, to answer those howls that he apparently could not.

How has it come to this pass? For three months, that jibbering buffoon, that chimp in clothing, has neglected you, despite my numerous remonstrations. I mean, it’s the basic rule by which I live: You do not leave your pack. Yes, you may be driven out or snatched from their embrace. But abandon them by the side of the Information Superhighway?

Yet clearly this is what he has done, left you, his loyal readers (who I have counted as pack members since that incident of which we no longer speak) staked out in some backyard of his conscience whilst he went off to indulge himself in some misbegotten exercise in ego, unable apparently to bestir himself long enough to jot a simple note. How hard can it be: I’m fine. I’m alive. We are all well. Here’s an anecdote of minor amusement which I will hump like a chair-leg until it’s 3,000 words long, and then congratulate myself on its brilliance, even though I changed tense three times and overused the word “enormously” throughout.


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I mean, honestly.

Well, the writer—I should say the former writer—of this blog has had his chance, his moment of warmth in the Great Sunlight Patch Upon the Rug. It now falls to me, your humble servant, the Right Honourable Blaze (I have a longer, sacred name given to me by the Girl, but this will suffice for the nonce) to record the events of the past months so that you may finally have answered for you the questions that I’ve no doubt have plagued you, have kept you yipping and twitching in troubled sleep at the foot of the bed these many nights.

I shall attempt to answer here, and in the dispatches to follow, the most pressing questions. And if in the course of doing so, I occasionally sink the teeth of my wit into the metaphorical shank of he who has kept you in the dark since autumn, well, you can hardly blame me, can you?

First, and for today:

What in the name of Dog is going on?

The short answer, in 150 woofs or less: After being cast out from his work pack, the Man (I use the term here with the greatest sense of irony), flailed uselessly for several months, consuming precious resources (oxygen, for example), and a great deal of household good will, before he managed to find a new work pack to join. I use the verb “find” not in the sense of a noble dog who forges bravely into the wilderness to locate a lost child, but in the sense of some straggling mongrel sniffing pointlessly in the gutter, just as a meat wagon passes and, hitting a bump, disgorges a lovely packet of steak (rrrrrr, steak) at his bedraggled and unworthy feet. Pouncing upon this stroke of luck, the Man decamped for parts unknown.

The longer answer:

The Man did return once or twice, at widely spaced intervals, and then mostly to collect his possessions and a few clean clothes. On his last visit, I gave him a good barking-to and he at last accepted his responsibilities. When he returned to his new den at Yuletide, I saw to it that all accompanied him, the Woman, the Boy, the Girl, and the Queen Baby.

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(For so I call her.)

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(Is she not exquisite?)

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(I have raised her since she was but a pink, hairless puppy.)

For me, there was talk of exile: boarding me with well-meaning friends, sending me to live with the Gorilla (the man’s larger older brother. A fine enough fellow, but, well, I’m sorry to be indelicate, but the man has cats. Cats. I shall say no more.)

I didn’t like to protest—one never wishes to appear needy (except where roast beef is involved). But I was truly worried for the well-being of the children. Who knew what perils might befall them when they arrived at their new home? Luckily, before I could mount an argument, the Girl (the wisest of the pack) made not an impassioned plea, but a simple declarative.

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“We can’t go without Blaze,” she said.

Then, the Queen Baby made known her will.

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“Blazey come too!” she declared. And, so far as I have ever been able to tell, her word is law.

So I too made the arduous journey, sleeping on a threadbare towel in the hindmost parts of the car, ever watchful of the Man (who has yet to earn back my trust. He may have saved my life—and I’m not ungrateful—but you never abandon your pack) that he would not attempt to drop us at a rest area and drive off.

And by and by, we arrived at a place I shall simply call The Farm. I am given to understand that this is temporary housing through the winter. It is, upon first sniff, a lovely domicile: a large white house sitting upon a massive green sward of trees and walking paths. Inside, it was warm, plenty of space for the children, a plenitude of windows (and so featuring numerous sunny patches for basking), ample table and kitchen space for preparing the Big Food. Upstairs, the Girl claimed an overlarge bed (plenty of room for me) just a bone’s throw away from the Queen Baby’s chambers. The Boy now shares a room with the Girl, which I found agreeable.


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He has grown tall and more man-like (although with none of the annoying chittering such as you hear from others of his species), and I am beginning to understand that he will soon rise above me in the pack. But for now, he appears to need me, and so it was well to have him close at paw.

Outside, as I have indicated, is a pleasing zone of nature, which the Man showed us when we went for a walk to stretch our legs after our long trip. I was gratified to note the presence of wildlife--not only rabbits, who leave behind much that is worth eating) but also owls, deer, and at least one cunning fox. I was also puzzled to note a surprising number of dead squirrels strewn about the path and the grounds. Something about their smell suggested--

Then we walked out onto the open green, and I heard a sound that made the hair on my back stand up. A deep, aggressive barking—a No Trespassing warning—that was quickly echoed by a second voice of the same breed.

From around the back of the house, I saw them charging, not two hundred yards distant: two sleek German shepherds. And I grasped immediately the import of the dead squirrels: they were warnings of danger.

The Woman and the children froze. But not the chittering knuckle-dragger. “Oh,” the Man said, in his lazy, banana-in-my-mouth way. “I forgot to tell you: Those are the guard dogs that prowl the property. They’re harmless.”

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Truly, he walks around with his eyes closed. And yet he manages never actually to walk off a cliff and spare us his antics. I mean, honestly.

Well, I don’t claim to be fluent in German, but based on what the shepherds were growling as they approached, it sounded to me as though they were discussing which of them would get the Girl, and which would get the Queen Baby.

The answer, of course, would be neither.

I positioned myself between the oncoming killers and the children (the Queen Baby was already clutching at my hindquarters, trying not to whimper) and bared my teeth as the dogs came on, braying in their Teutonic way for blood. And as the world went Red (as it does for my kind, at the onset of battle), I had time for one last thought:

Harmless? He brings his pack to a den patrolled by trained killers and calls it harmless? As Dog is my judge, when I’ve dispatched these two, I’ll have that Man’s balls for squeaky toys!

And then, the dogs were upon me...


(Well, I'm sorry. I understand that these pauses between moments of drama can be painful, but I must say, I rather like the dots of ellipsis. They remind me of rabbit droppings fresh upon the snow. Follow them, for they lead to something tasty. And anyway, do you truly suppose something terrible awaits, now that I am here? I mean, honestly.)

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