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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Exceptionalism of Dogs

I've posted before about just how different dogs are, and how they enrich our lives.

This came across my path today (on Sipsey Street), and I figured I'd share it with you.


By Catherine Moore

"Watch out! You nearly broadsided that car!"

My father yelled at me. "Can't you do anything right?"

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man In the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn't prepared for another battle.

'I saw the car, Dad. Please don't yell at me when I'm driving.' My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.

Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts.

Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil.

What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess. The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn't lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn't do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived.

But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor's orders.. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, and then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue. Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God
To soothe Dad's troubled mind. But the months wore on and God was silent.

Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered. In vain. Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, 'I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.' I listened as she read... The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression.. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon... After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons, too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down.

It was a pointer, one of the dog world's aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed. Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hipbones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. "Can you tell me about him?" The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement.

"He's a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him, that was two weeks ago and we've heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow." He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. 'You mean you're going to kill him?'

'Ma'am,' he said gently, 'that's our policy. We don't have room for every unclaimed dog.'

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision.

'I'll take him,' I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.

"Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!" I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. "If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it." Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples...

"You'd better get used to him, Dad. He's staying!" Dad ignored me. "Did you hear me, Dad?" I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate.

We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes.. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne . Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad's bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyennes cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father's room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad's bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad's peace of mind.

The morning of Dad's funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life. And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers."

"I've often thanked God for sending that angel," he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article.

Cheyenne's unexpected appearance at the animal shelter . . . his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father. . and the proximity of their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all. Life is too short for drama & petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

Forgive now those who made you cry.

You might not get a second time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Where the Hell is Matt?

This went around, after Stride picked it up, and I guess that as usual I'm likely the last to pick it up. One thing that has always fascinated me as a photographer is the varied cultures you have around the world. Different peoples, dress, ways of thinking, etc. But when it comes down to some sap dancing around like a jackass, well, people of any culture can't help but to jump in.

Very well done video. I suppose my favorite are the gentlemen in Papua, New Guinea around 2:13. Cheers to Matt, keep traveling man.

Friday, July 24, 2009

200 Extras = 1,000,000 People

Every now and again, a TV commercial, or a movie, or a particular image catches my eye. Often, I'm fascinated as much by what the piece of media portrays as how it was accomplished.

I'm sure most folks by now have seen the Prius commercials, where they use people in costumes to make an entire world - clouds, water, grass, trees, etc. I've been focusing on that commercial very closely, the usage of coordinated movement, the costumes, the total creation of a natural world with people as the medium. Really cool stuff.

With that in mind, I went and found a "Making Of" video for the commercial. Man I love Google/YouTube. They have some quick stats at the end, but apparently they used a grand total of 200 extras to patch together an entire jigsaw, which on completion represented 1 million people, to create the entire world that the car drives through.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update Grande

I know it's been quiet, sue me.

Lessee, in the last few months I was laid off, found a new job, and celebrated the Fourth with the dog. There's the nutshell.

The Fourth was pretty quiet. My new job is funky with holidays, so I ended up working Friday and having Monday off. That worked out well as a friend of mine is still out of work from the same layoff that got me, so we were able to hang out with a bunch of good folks and enjoy a day of gaming. As per last year, I was the only person on my street to bother to put out the flag, which I still find disappointing for some reason. At least this time I noticed a house around the corner had put up a flag mount and was flying as well.

I ended the day by taking the dog out to a field near the soccer stadium and watching Frisco's fireworks with a couple of beers and a good cigar. The pooch did great, and didn't seem phased much by the show, though I did notice she turned her head in avoidance - a great behavioral sign that she was going to stoically ignore the issue rather than freak out and confront it.

As is normal here in July, we're cooking at around 100 degrees. I still have my lawn service and wouldn't trade it for the world. That said, I have some nasty dead patches on the front lawn that I can't quite figure out. I'm guessing a disease/fungal infestation called "Brown Patch" and am waiting it out. Meanwhile, the backyard grass is about 8 inches high. I desperately need to man up and mow it - though excuses not to are easy to come by.

Kinda bland and boring, but then holing up to avoid spending money puts a dent in the get out and have fun finances. Everything is back on track now and I'm working on building a bigger, better financial cushion.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why I Love Dogs

Anyone who knows me knows that I really like dogs. Here is one reason why:

Very few other animals (or people for that matter) act this way. Definitely something we could all take away from this.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Refrigerator Nazis

Rotten office fridge cleanup sends 7 to hospital

Now I know folks give a certain person at the office a hard time for being so on top of getting the old crap out of the refrigerator, but I think this should pretty much explain why having a "refrigerator nazi" is so important:

SAN JOSE, Calif. – An office worker cleaning a fridge full of rotten food created a smell so noxious that it sent seven co-workers to the hospital and made many others ill. Firefighters had to evacuate the AT&T building in downtown San Jose on Tuesday, after the flagrant fumes prompted someone to call 911. A hazmat team was called in.

What they found was an unplugged refrigerator that had been crammed with moldy food.

Authorities said an enterprising office worker had decided to clean it out, placing the food in a conference room while using two cleaning chemicals to scrub down the mess. The mixture of old lunches and disinfectant caused 28 people to need treatment for vomiting and nausea.

Authorities said the worker who cleaned the fridge didn't need treatment — she can't smell because of allergies.

heh, it's for your safety, really.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Of Rabbits and Swallows

Before leaving for Midland for an Appleseed (more on that in a following post), I noticed a couple of Barn Swallows who had decided to make a nest under the eve in my front entryway. I noticed this because of the various and ever growing piles of bird crap all over my entryway. Not to mention the growing pile of grass and mud near the ceiling.

I knocked it down with a broom handle, while being buzzed by swallows. Buzz me eh? I then grabbed a tennis racket and started taking swings at them. Swallows are apparently smarter than that.

Fine, nest is destroyed, off to Midland.

Three days later, I come home, and there's an even bigger nest. Accompanied, of course, by two very satisfied looking swallows. I knocked it down again.

Three days later, I come home, and there's two even more satisfied looking swallows, and a nest. I used the hose on them. I felt better, and the nest was down again.

Finally, I read about how they'll tolerate people, but get very nervous when there are predators around. I let the dog out into the foyer during a rain storm when they were both sitting happily under the eve. They left, and I haven't seen them since.

Satisfied with myself, I was working from home a couple of days ago and look out my office window. There was a rabbit contentedly munching on my landscaping.

I just can't win.

Gotta Love the French

Yes, they had some problems fighting wars, but they still seem to have a certain....je ne sais pas...when it comes to naval fighting.

This is the way you handle pirates.

Using the sun and naval maneuvers to outsmart them was brilliant.

Way to go guys.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Box Reduction

So I've been staring at these stacks of boxes on the edges of my garage now for, oh, about 6 months. At this point, many of them have been relatively untouched for at least 5 years, some for over a decade.

Over the last couple of days, I have begun to wage war.

What do I get?

So far, 6 boxes into the shredder/trash/recycle bin. 1 box worth of keepable stuff.

I mean really, do I need junk mail from 1999? How about 1994? Wow.

On the plus side, I've found a number of old photos, letters, etc. that are great. Some from CBear, some from other friends. Even a check from a cousin for graduation (1999). I shredded that, and apologies to said cousin for not seeing it the first go round. :P

I think a trip to the Frisco Waste Disposal tomorrow to drop off 2 17" CRT monitors and an old laser printer is in order. Then....more trash to throw out!

My goal is to have one entire side of the garage free of boxes by the end of April.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seattle, Mussells, and Beer

Now those three things are something I can get behind. Of course, it was March, and March means...cold. Not just a little cold, but screaming, 14 layers on and still shivering, cold. We even got three or four inches of snow.

But I digress. I had a permit expire that you can only get in person in Washington. So the timing of the trip was rather critical. A friend of my father's Girlfriend is a Horizon pilot and was nice enough to help us out with getting up there, which saved quite a bit of money, so my father and I headed on up for a week of trying not to freeze to death.

As always, it was a joy to be in the Seattle area. Something about the trees and ocean all coming together results in an incredibly unique environment likely not found outside the Fjords of the European North. It was cold and rainy most of the time, which pre-empted much in the way of photography, but what the heck.

As the weekend approached, we had a huge wind come down the straights, bringing with it very large waves. We hit the beach near Ebey Prairie to see what we could see.

Very strong winds - at one point they felt like they were starting to pick up the back of the car a bit, and a lot of wave and sea spray wetting down the cars and the road. Naturally there were more than a few rubberneckers around. A cold front followed the transitional winds, and the following day ended up very cold and hinting of snow.

We happened to be at Coupeville on Whidbey Island during the Mussel Fest, a weekend celebration of food and local artists. I saw a sign for a studio and on a whim turned off to take the "studio tour". The artist is a local ceramics maker, and she had an excellent rendition of red and turquoise that really caught my eye. We were treated to a quick look at her studio, and she passed the time for a few minutes with us while I looked at the various pieces she had put out. I ended up making off (after paying of course) with a neat little vase to bring back for a very reasonable price.

Naturally, we spent the evening in a tent complete with lovely ladies serving beer, fresh Penn Cove Mussels coming out of a large boiling vat of very well seasoned broth, and great live folk/blues music.

By far the best photo opportunities came at the end of the trip for me. The last day I was there, we decided to head up towards Mt. Baker to see what was up there. While the pass was closed, there were a number of excellent shooting opportunities on our way up there.

We found a nice meadow with a church overlooking the mountains and a farmhouse. By far two of my favorite photos from the trip.

We finally ended up going down a road towards a closed mountain park. Lots of shots in there, but I'm still deciding on a few of them. One that immediately caught my eye on the drive back down.

A productive trip all in all, and it definitely got me relaxed again. More photos likely once I've forgotten what they were supposed to look like.