“Canem Obliquitur”

The dog interrupts

I had definitely forgotten how much time and attention a new puppy requires. Clearly I have abandoned my writing practice for the past while, neither posting nor reading others’ posts. I have missed it, but every time I start to gather my thoughts they are scattered. Rather like the toys, chewed up paper towel holders and chew sticks that currently litter my floor.

Yes I am very glad that we adopted our fourth Australian Shepherd puppy. I love the life that she has brought to our home. However, transitioning from a 14 year old dog who would rest peacefully at our feet while we ate to one who absolutely must chew our shoe laces during meal times has been a challenge. We are very grateful for the trainer that we hired in advance of bringing Emmy home with us. She has raised Border Collies, very similar to Aussies, and knows the joys and troubles of rearing very intelligent puppies.

She has been quite frank with us about the bad habits we managed to start in the first two weeks we had the puppy on our own. Emmy is so cute that it hadn’t bothered us that she jumps up. Casey(the trainer) appropriately pointed out that we didn’t want a full grown Aussie jumping up on us. Since we are in our 70’s, this was precisely our caution about getting another dog, so I really appreciate her knowledge.

In the years since we last had a puppy, the market has exploded with toys, chews, “enrichment activities,” and so on for dogs. You can buy old sorts of horrifying things for dogs to chew on including pigs’ noses, bull penis strips, duck heads and chicken crests. Having no wish to have any of these on our floor, I settled for quite innocuous turkey tendons. Since our dogs have been happy to eat them in the past on Thanksgiving(not the bones, just the gristle) I am content with them. Emmy loves them and they keep her away from our shoes at dinner. So does the gate between the dining room and kitchen!

Hello to all. I will try to catch up as I get some spare time!

“Not Exactly a Recommendation”

Usually when I write about a book it is to unconditionally recommend it to my friends here. But in the case of one I recently finished, Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, copyright 2021, I want to be more cautious. I really appreciated the novel, but I suspect that many would not. Hence my “not exactly a recommendation” title.

I generally avoid books that have any quasi supernatural elements. I find that they add little to the plot and are often just flourishes to show off the skill of the writer. But in the case of this particular novel, Mott has found a way through a character The Kid, who may or may not be real, to serve a deeper purpose. The author of the story tours the United States to promote his book called, amusingly enough Hell of a Book. Not until the very end do we even learn the substance of the narrative.

The book manages to send up current book promotion madness and to simultaneously explore dynamics of race in the United States. The satire reminds me more of Jonathan Swift than any other writer, biting and insightful. Mott also riffs on Ralph Ellison’s title The Invisible Man, contending that it is impossible for a black man to be invisible no matter how hard he tries.

Sometimes the best way to tackle a notoriously difficult subject such as race and the murder of innocent black citizens is sideways instead of head on. Mott manages to do just that without my ever feeling that he was showing off. Rather he was using the best of fiction techniques to make several lasting points.

If you do read it, let me know what you think.

“Who’s The Boss?”

While it is possible to spend endless amounts of money on dog toys, it is just as easy to entertain Emmy with things we already have. Here she is content to pull against Charlie on a length of rope. It keeps them both amused and cost nothing.

I gifted her with a paper grocery bag which I opened and dropped near her. She has spent a lot of time making sure that the paper bag knows that it has met a fierce opponent. When she gets bored with it, I simply rearrange it and drop it again. For her it is a brand new adversary.

Sure she has the attention span of a rutabaga, but she is hilarious!

“Another County Heard From”

Years ago when my parents listened to the radio for election results, they would hear the announcer say “another county heard from.” This became an often heard comment in our family whether one of the younger kids woke from a nap or one of us chimed into a conversation not involving the kid speaking up. I heard the phrase long before I was told of its origin, and I thought for a long time that it was just a family line.

Now that Emmy, the Australian Shepherd puppy, has entered our life, I find myself saying “another county heard from” when she awakens in the middle of the night for her trip outside. We had been living with an elderly dog who was content to sleep, eat, wander from room to room and go out on our schedule. She had long ago outgrown “accidents.” The way to avoid puppies using the house instead of the yard is to take them out all the time when they are not in their crate. Emmy just sleeps overnight and at her afternoon nap in the crate. Otherwise Charlie and I rotate taking her out on the hour–even for him, odd for me. That MOSTLY works.

We are a little(or a lot)sleep deprived since neither of us can fall immediately back to sleep after going outside at 2am. Nonetheless she is a welcome addition to our family, another living creature sharing our home after too many quiet dog free months.

“Puppy Prep”

We met our dog trainer for a 90 minute Zoom meeting this morning in preparation for driving up to Vermont tomorrow to get our puppy. Her present name is Eleven since she was the 11th puppy in the litter, born after the breeder had gone to sleep rightfully assuming ten was sufficient. But then came Eleven. We are naming her Emmy after Emmy Lou Harris, well known to people our age I imagine. Our granddaughter also likes a pop singer named Emmy, so we all are happy with her name. I can’t see me standing outside yelling “Eleven, Eleven.” People would probably think it was a new QAnon password.

I got a little overwhelmed hearing about the needs of a new puppy since it had been 15 years since we had one. We learned about crate training, potty breaks, feeding, and initial socialization. I forgot for a short while that I really miss having a dog around and a dog starts out as a puppy! After we spoke with her this morning we remembered bringing home new babies and how disruptive they are for a while. Fortunately dogs mature much faster than little humans.

I will post a few pictures of Eleven/Emmy as soon as I take some. For a few days I will probably share the joys and travails of a new creature in the family.

“Attention must be paid..”

We live in Connecticut, nicknamed “the land of steady habits.” Depending on your outlook on life this is either a compliment or a criticism. Over the years many residents have moved out of the state. In early days it was to seek new horizons in hope of a better life. Today it is to seek new horizons in hope of a better life. Years ago it meant moving West seeking more space. Today it means moving South with the promise of better weather and lower taxes. Some of us stay put.

Zorrie, a short novel by Laird Hunt, published in 2021, settles us down with a woman who pretty much stayed put. She lived in Indiana, but it really could have been in many overlooked places around the country.In Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller’s 1949 play, Linda, Willie Loman’s wife, says “attention must be paid” to a man like her husband, working in obscurity, never leaving a huge mark on the world. Hunt seems to take the same approach with Zorrie, though in a less melancholy way. She is born, orphaned, married, widowed, employed, unemployed, a farmer, a neighbor, and a friend. Her obituary won’t be found in the New York Times or in the compilation of lives we have lost each year.

But what does it mean to live a “good life?” What does it mean to stay put? I found that after I finished my time with the main character Zorrie, I pondered these questions once again. The book won’t keep you up at night with its tension, but it may give you pause to reflect on who really matters in the world.

“I Joined the Crowd”

Taking a break from my whole house reorganizing, I sat down with the New York Times Sunday paper. Opening it I found the above photo and accompanying article. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I had joined a huge community across the United States busily shedding unnecessary items. The thrift stores are overflowing, the charity shops are having to rent extra storage space, and organizing books are best sellers.

Here I thought I was just puttering along, taking care of things like the attic chaos that had bothered me for some time. Who knew I was part of a large scale clean out? One of the troubles of being a member of the gigantic bulge in the boa constrictor known as the baby boom is the constant reminder that I am not special! It has hit me across the years of course, but I was reminded of it when I saw that piece in the paper.

It sent me back to fondue pots. Yes, I thought of fondue pots. Now I hope that any others my age have now remembered that pot poised over a sterno can and the little forks that came with the set, a required gift for every baby boomer wedding. Cheese or sirloin seemed to be the only two choices, but we all felt quite adult around the hot oil or cheese. Then there were the Chemex coffee pots. Everyone I knew had one.

I find the subterranean tranmission of shared possessions and activities amusing. Somehow, without any obvious cue, I learn I am behaving just like thousands of people my age. And then, of course, there is this very blog!

“Murder Least Foul”

I was introduced to the mystery The Thursday Murder Club by a church book group. While I never Zoomed the meeting that month, I did devour the book. Apparently well known to many, but not at all to me, Osman has written an engaging and often laugh out loud funny mystery. Starring a group of amateur sleuths in an assisted living facility, the book finds our motley crew facing an actual murder. Up until then they had tried to solve unsolved murders.

Admitting a bias, since the cleverest(sneakiest?) member is named Elizabeth, I loved the constant surprises in plot and quirky characteristics of each resident. Fortunately the book lacked overly gory details, heart stopping suspense and grinding and thrusting. As you know I don’t enjoy any of that in my mysteries.

No sooner had I finished the book then I saw he had written a second, The Man Who Died Twice. I promptly sped through it too. These aren’t long, convoluted reads. I read each one straight through in two evenings.(If I stayed up later, I could have finished each in one evening!)

So if your brain needs a break from debt ceilings, infrastructure debate, gas shortages, mask mandates and booster shots, I recommend you pick up Osman’s books.