Underdog

via Daily Prompt: Underdog

We call my dog ,Lily, Underdog because she’s always going under things. If you’re looking for her and can’t find her, there’s a good chance she’s under the table. At our old house she was always going under beds but at our new house she’s discovered much to her chagrin, that the beds are constructed in a way that make it impossible for her to get under them. She’s just too big

She’s usually driven under furniture by sounds she doesn’t like- that sound could be thunder, fireworks, music, beeping, glasses clinking together or some sound that is perceptible only to her. She has very big ears and is very sensitive to noises. One time we were walking her through the neighborhood when fireworks started going off.  As there was no furniture around, she darted under a parked car.

Aside from noises, the other thing that tends to drive her under furniture is seeing an object she wants there, usually one of her toys. I said that she can’t fit under beds in our new house but she hasn’t quite accepted that fact. She still tries to get under the beds.  She thrusts her head under the bed and whines and barks, hoping that if she just tries hard enough the bed will magically shift to accommodate her or she’ll magically shrink.

While Lily is too big to fit under the beds, the cat, Dr. Zeus, is not. He goes under them quite a bit, especially when he’s mad at his humans and as you can imagine this drives Lily crazy.  The two of them like to play-fight and while Lily has the advantage of being bigger, Dr. Zeus has the advantage of being able to retreat under furniture. He’s taken an especial liking to the footstools in front of the sofa. I’ve taken to calling him Undercat.

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When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad…

Editor’s Note: The first part of this blog has been deleted because of privacy/stalker/harassment issues.

While the bee didn’t sting, I did recently have an encounter with a bee. I heard an angry buzzing sound coming from my ceiling. When I looked up in to my air vent I saw a bee sticking its feelers out. I left the room and when I came back I could still hear angry buzzing but it was no longer coming from the vent. I couldn’t find the bee though.

I know bees tend to live in colonies so I had this terrifying vision of a swarm of bees coming down the vent and stinging me all over. An exterminator visit was arranged and my mom said that when the exterminator showed up I should lie and say I’d seen more than one bee so I’d be taken more seriously. I have a hard time lying about anything but I figured I could manage a little white lie about bees. Yet when the time came I found myself unable to do it. I admitted that I had only seen one bee.

This one bee could not be found and a search of the vent revealed no further bees so the exterminator packed up his tools and left. A few hours after the exterminator left I found the bee in my curtains. After it was captured in a cup and determined to be a harmless bumblebee it was released in to the wild.

A few days after my bee encounter I had an ant encounter. This time there really was more than one ant. There were lots of them crawling all over the floors and furniture. This morning I had a spider encounter. Thankfully there was only one spider in my doorway but one spider in my doorway is one spider too many.

In the grand scheme of things pesky insect/arachnid encounters are not that big a deal  but I find myself feeling sad a lot about my life in general. If you’re familiar with The Sound of Music, you know that the solution to that is to simply remember my favorite things.

Whiskers on kittens, cream colored ponies and wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings could all be a source of comfort to me because while I’m obviously not a big fan of insects or arachnids, I love all other animals.  Speaking of animals, April the giraffe finally gave birth yesterday and I got to watch it live. At first I was watching a giraffe walking around with legs hanging out of its butt, which was a little weird but the moment when the calf was born in an amniotic gush of glory was beautiful and so satisfying. The moments after birth were adorable. It’s amazing how a baby giraffe is able to accomplish in one hour what it takes a human baby one year to accomplish.

Raindrops on roses are nice too. I love seeing all the beautiful flowers that are blooming now. I mentioned in a previous blog that April’s erratic weather patterns mess with your head but it was really warm today so perhaps our silver white winter has melted in to spring. While I haven’t had any crisp apple strudel or schnitzel with noodles lately, I’ve had plenty of other delicious dishes, all of which I’m sure I’d misspell.

While today was not a holiday that brought sleigh bells or brown paper packages tied up in string, it was a holiday that brought bunnies and eggs of all colors tied up in Easter grass. While we arrived at my sister’s house so late that the Easter festivities were over by the time we got there, I still had a good time. After my dad had been chastened for running so late, I got to see him properly chastened for ruining my Disney World trip by hating Disney World. Then I got to see the family dog going down a slide and I caught it on video. What more could I ask for?

Happy Easter!

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Book Review: Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

The title of this book made me dread the question of “So, what are you reading?”  The chapters of the book were divided by seasons and it took me an embarassingly long time for me to figure out that the book is thus titled because each word in the title is similar in sound to a corresponding season. This book is about a pariah named Ray (although his name is mentioned so seldomly in the book that I didn’t even remember that was his name until I saw it mentioned in book reviews) who adopts a one eyed dog he calls One Eye. Ray appears to have some sort of developmental disability or mental illness but a specific diagnosis is never given. His mother died when he was young and he was raised by an abusive father. He’s been isolated and ostracized his entire life. When he does interact with people he often gets himself in trouble, as his actions and behaviors generate fear and misunderstanding.

One Eye the dog has also been feared and ostracized by people because of his appearance and his aggressive streak. Ray and One Eye form a strong bond. When One Eye attacks another dog, Ray realizes that they are once again in trouble and decides to flee with his new pet.

I empathized and related to Ray because I know what it’s like to be a weirdo and  a social reject, to be very different from most other people. I know what it’s like to be isolated and ostracized, to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, to inspire anger, fear, discomfort and disgust in others. It seemed appropriate that it was while I was reading this book at Barnes&Noble that someone decided to question me about my pacing, giving me yet another reminder of how abnormal I am ( See my “A Night at the Bookstore” blog.)

Ray talks about being called a troll. I’ve been called a troll as well. In my case the term troll referred to someone who messes with people on the internet but it all comes down to the same thing in the end. Someone posted a meme thing-y on the internet that says “Kira is a troll” with pictures of trolls in the background. As with Ray, people would often assume malice and ill intent on my part when there  was none. There’s no question that there was malice and ill intent on the part of whoever posted that troll meme and I’m sure the same could be said of some of the people who went after Ray.

There’s a scene in the book where it’s revealed that Ray witnessed his father choking on a sausage but just let him choke to death rather than trying to save him. I couldn’t condemn Ray too harshly for making that choice because his father was so awful that it seemed like a case where it may have been better to just let nature take its course. Then again, even though Ray’s father did some pretty horrible things to Ray, maybe he was deserving of some compassion because it sounded like he struggled with mental illness. Maybe he passed some of his mental problems on to Ray through nature, nurture or a combination of the two.

I could also relate to Ray because I form deep bonds with my dogs. I love them very much, I fear losing them and am devastated when I do lose them. As I mentioned in another blog, like many people, I hate seeing dogs die in fiction (or nonfiction for that matter.)  One Eye’s life was obviously in peril and I kept thinking ‘Please don’t let the dog die, please don’t let the dog die.” As I approached the end of the book it seemed that Ray was going to commit suicide and take the dog with him. I thought “Oh, please, anything but that.”

The actual ending of the book is rather ambiguous and open to interpretation. I’ll choose to believe that the dog lived.

Oh and I forgot to mention that it drove me crazy the way Ray kept giving One Eye chocolate. Don’t give your dogs chocolate, people. It’s toxic to them.

Dakota

It’s been a little over a year since my dog Dakota died. A very unkind person recently accused me of faking her death. This unkind person is also very stupid so I made a snarky comment about how she probably thought I was faking my dog’s death because she found obituaries for my stepbrother and my grandmother but she could not find one for my dog. I was thinking about that today and I was thinking about my blog. I decided I would use this blog to write an obituary/ tribute to Dakota.

When my mother first saw Dakota on Petfinder it was love at first sight. She was a very beautiful dog and my mother knew just from looking in to her eyes that she was also a very sweet dog. She was named Dakota and my mother had always wanted to name a dog Dakota so it seemed like it was meant to be (before she was named Dakota she was named Sharon but her foster parents changed her name, presumably because Sharon is just ridiculous on a dog.)

When we adopted Dakota she was about a year old. Before we adopted her she was a stray roaming the streets of Tennessee. Animal control tried for a long time to catch her. They finally succeeded and brought her to a shelter. The shelter was going to euthanize her because she was so afraid of people. Then a rescue group intervened and brought her to a foster home in New Jersey.

I always found it strange and ironic that Dakota was almost euthanized for being so afraid of people because I never met a dog that loved people more than Dakota did. This was a dog who loved nothing more than to cuddle with her owners, to be petted by them and to be adored by them. As soon as you sat down on the couch Dakota was jumping up next to you. She was leaning her head on your shoulder and pressing her entire body against yours. She was submitting her forehead to be kissed, her neck to  be scratched and her belly to be rubbed. My mother often sat on the sofa to work and Dakota was referred to as her cuddly co-worker. Even though she sometimes made it difficult to actually work she was a great co-worker to have.

Dakota was very jealous of affection between people. We had an invisible fence to keep her out of certain areas of the house. She was very cautious of the invisible fence and would refuse to go in to a room that she thought might be surrounded by an invisible fence but if two people were hugging or cuddling in that room, Dakota would dash in to that room, invisible fence be damned and demand to be included in the affection.

Dakota’s other great love was food. She was especially fond of bread. The second you opened a bag of bread Dakota was there beside you begging you to share with her. She was so cute that you just couldn’t resist giving her half your meal. My mother made tea every night and after she made her tea, she would give Dakota a treat. Thus a tea/treat association developed in Dakota’s mind. As soon as she figured out that tea was being made she’d come dashing in to the kitchen demanding her treat.

Unfortunately Dakota often ate things she was not supposed to eat. She would take food out of the garbage and consume random matter she found on the sidewalk. On several occasions she had to be given hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting and then be dragged away from the vomit before she could eat it. One time a cleaning lady left a garbage bag lying on the kitchen floor. Dakota got in to it and ate corn cobs. Since corn cobs are dangerous to dogs she had to spend a night at the veterinary hospital. After that my parents told the cleaning lady she was fired. She defended herself by saying that Dakota is sneaky. I guess she did have a point.

Dakota loved to go in my room and sleep on my bed. I loved having her there even though she would often steal my pillow and ate several pairs of my underwear. She thought that my room was her room. When she was locked out of it she became indignant.Her favorite lookout spot was the window in my room. She liked to stick her head between the curtains and observe the world around her. We called her the little old lady in the window. If she saw something she disliked or found suspicious she would bark at it. She was especially bothered by alternative forms of transportation. God forbid anyone use a bike, a riding lawn mower, a skateboard or roller blades to get around. The GoodYear blimp that flew past our house one day disturbed her greatly.

Dakota also used that window to watch for her owners coming home and for intruders trying to enter. If she saw that her owners were coming home she would observe them for a while and whine in excitement. Then she would rush down to the door to greet them.If you were an intruder Dakota’s greeting was less friendly. She would bark, growl and bare her teeth at you but the second you entered the house she was your best friend. Her bark was definitely worse than her bite. We thought she an excellent watch dog. She was big and intimidating enough to scare intruders away but we did not have to worry about her actually harming someone.

Another thing Dakota loved was going on walks around the neighborhood. We usually took her on long walks but sometimes we’d just walk her once around the block. She always knew when we were headed in a direction that would not give her the lengthy walk she deserved. She would tug on the leash and pull us in the direction that would take us on a long walk. She needed to bypass that lame walk and show that she was actually the one who was walking us.

Although Dakota was never as fond of other dogs as she was of humans or food, she did enjoy interacting with other dogs when she was taken on a walk around the neighborhood. Whenever she had a positive social interaction with another dog she would walk away from it with a jaunt in her step and would keep turning around to look at us as if to make sure we were aware of how popular she was. One time a dog jumped out of a car and ran up to Dakota. The owner said he had never done that before. We told Dakota she was just so beautiful that that dog just couldn’t help himself and was willing to jump out of a moving car to get to her.

There was one guy who shouted out the car window “Your dog’s a prick” when we were walking her but everyone else complimented us on having such a nice, beautiful dog. Dakota was never the sharpest tool in the shed but we told her that did not matter because she was so good looking and had such a great personality.

We always talked about how Dakota was the perfect dog and how lucky we were to have her. She was such a cute, sweet little being. We could not imagine our lives without Dakota and we knew that losing her would be very hard. We were hoping we would not have to worry about losing her for a while but we ended up losing her much too soon.

When my mother filed for divorce from my stepfather and planned a move to Illinois with me my stepfather threatened to keep Dakota himself. The prospect of losing Dakota to him distressed us greatly but fortunately he agreed to let us keep her and we took her to Illinois with us. Unfortunately we ended up losing her in a tragic way a month later.

One day in July 2015 my mother and I went to Starbucks. When we came home I commented that Dakota had not come to the door to greet us. I went to the dog room to look for her. I’ll never forget the moment of shock and horror when I first saw her laying still on the floor with a chip bag over her head. I hoped against hope that she was okay but when I took the chip bag off her head her tongue was blue and she wasn’t moving. I let out a scream. My mother asked me what was wrong and I said the words I never wanted to say: “Dakota’s dead.” “What?” she exclaimed in disbelief. She walked over to Dakota and started screaming as well.

We had always been very concerned for Dakota’s safety and went to great lengths to protect her but chip bags were a danger we were not aware of. It’s a danger most people are not aware of and yet it’s not uncommon for dogs to suffocate on chip bags.

The weeks that followed Dakota’s death were full of tears. To this day I still shed tears over her. A few months after her death we got another dog. Lily is a great dog and I love her but she is not Dakota. I still miss Dakota very much and my heart still aches for her.

I feel sad that Dakota did not get to have the long life she deserved. I feel sad that I did not get to spend as many years with Dakota as I wanted to. However, I know that I was lucky to have Dakota at all. I know that even though she had a rough start in life and her life was not very long, the life she had with us was a good one. We made her very happy and she made us very happy. She received unconditional love from us and we received unconditional love from her.

I wish things could have ended differently for her. I wish they could have ended the way they ended for that dog Marley in Marley and Me. I wish that before Dakota’s beautiful soul left this earth I could have felt her warm brown body pressed against mine one more time. I wish I could have looked in to her beautiful almond eyes one more time and said to her “Dakota, you are a great dog.”