Just Bill and the Mister

December 10, 2009

COMING CLEAN, PART TWO

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 9:06 am
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The previous post detailed the facts as best we know them about about our rescue dog, Chelsea. 

My wife Barbara did manage to find the web address of the family that got rid of her.  The wife responded with a well written, self-serving e-mail.  In it, she describes Chelsea as having been acquired, when she was about two,  from a family living in a trailer.  Her tail was already damaged, and her left eye blind–says the writer.  The second family’s reason for wanting a another  dog was to serve as a companion for their Australian cattle dog. 

The writer characterizes Chelsea’s life with her new family as ideal, a happy, outdoor-dog’s life in the company of their alpha male cattle dog.  The two lived outside, chased cars and wildlife, and were, according to the writer, boon companions. 

Then the alpha died.  After this, the writer says Chelsea retreated under her favorite bush and spent her days there.  Given her ways when she came to us (and however self-serving the rest of the e-mail may be), this makes sense.  Chelsea is extremely sensitive, and almost alarmingly intelligent.  It’s easy to think of her grieving over the death of her companion, a powerful male cattle dog.  For a long time before we learned any of this, my wife and I thought Chelsea was grieving over having been taken from her foster family (those good people will get a posting of their own).  In fact, of the dozens of dogs in our community encountered on walks over the years, only two have roused Chelsea’s interest.  Both look something like Aussie cattle dogs. 

Then, we’re told, someone in Chelsea’s new family had a baby.  This, added to Chelsea’s grieving, caused her stock to drop with her owners.  She was now boring, no fun, just there without purpose under her bush.  So, the family got a golden retriever puppy.  From what we know of her, it’s easy to believe how big this did not go over.  Chelsea doesn’t like frisky, in-your-face dogs, especially puppies.

But in the end, what gives the lie to at least some of the writer’s history is the nasty, near-death state of neglect our dog was in when she was dumped at the Vanderburgh Humane Society in Evansville, Indiana.  Everyone who has a dog and cares about it knows the following: along with the basics of food, water and shelter, dogs at a minimum need Heart Guard as a prophylactic against heart worm, and Frontline or something like it to prevent fleas. 

Neither were apparently provided to Chelsea.  And obviously, she was never groomed.  The writer told us the dog had been spayed before coming to live at her new house, so there had never been any need to take her to a vet.  Nor was she ever allowed in the house.  We judge from her initial refusal to eat regular dog food that the family fed her with table scraps.

And so forth.  When bitter thoughts about this treatment rise and add to the day’s store of angst, I comfort myself with knowing that, had Chelsea lived in Evansville with people worthy of her, she would never have made the journey that brought her to us. She’s been with us now five years.  Like the white hairs on my chin, those on Chelsea’s speak to “the aging process.”   

Yes, it’s the process leading all things organic back to alluvial  ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  But so what if this is true for all living things?  Chelsea has become so important to us that every time my wife and I try to imagine life in her absence, we fail.  When she dies, no strength of reason or common sense or simple acceptance of How Things Are is going to make much difference.  It will be awful, and we will have to grieve our way through, as we believe she did. 

Knowing this makes each day—six or seven of Chelsea’s for every one of ours—a ticking, time-conscious blessing.

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November 17, 2009

MITIGATION BLUES, PART ONE

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 10:42 am
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The mister is nerving himself up to write about people he and the missus know.  These people have been to our den for parties, but the member of their family I know best is their dog Randy.  From his p-mail. 

 I’m big, but Randy is huge.  Bulky and loping, he has a head the size of the one a different friend of the mister’s put on his wall after a trip to Alaska.  It has weird headgear I don’t get at all.

When he’s taken out walking, Randy wears headgear, too, called a muzzle.  To be honest, I’m glad they make him wear it, from the noises he makes inside the thing.  I think his mister and missus got Randy because they’re afraid of something.

November 9, 2009

baseball blues

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 12:29 pm
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The mister is watching a post-season baseball game, the Angels and Yankees.  I think it’s probably better for him than actually going to games.    

He and the missus went to a Tigers game in late September.  After they left, I lay on the kitchen floor, listening, dozing.  But right away I knew when they finally turned the corner onto our block. 

Being a dog and not having much sense of time passing, I never know how long they’ve been gone.  But I know the sound of their two cars.  They’re different from all the other sounds made by the neighbors’ cars, pickup trucks, vans, motorcycles, SUVs, motorized scooters, lawnmowers, weed whackers, edgers, chain saws, leaf blowers and so forth. 

Just before they turn in the drive, I hear the garage door start to open.  How this door knows what I know is a mystery to me.  I see no evidence of dogness to it, but it doesn’t matter, because that sound means they really are back, not just passing in front of the house and going away again (say, back for the bag of ice they paid for but then forgot to take out of the freezer on leaving the market). 

This is when I get up and stand waiting.  When I actually see them walking from the garage, I stand on my hind legs and place my paws on the door.  This way, I’m looking out the window when they come up the stairs.  I’ve come to think these little bits of stage business are important to them, that they like seeing me waiting this way. 

I think they like knowing it matters to me they’ve come back–and it does.  Once they’re inside, I am lavished with praise, and usually get a treat in the bargain.  As with the garage door, I have no idea how this works.  Why having slept for hours makes me worthy of so much attention is another mystery, but I’m not complaining.

The missus drives a Buick, the mister a Dodge van.  The van is what we use to go back and forth to Florida.  The traveling means we’re what’s called snowbirds.  There’s another mystery:  just when the weather starts to get better here in Michigan—cooler, more comfortable—the mister and missus start loading all kinds of things in the van, along with my crate.

I got sidetracked.  That may be a function of my powerful sense of smell.  Every time a really good, new aroma wafts past, I forget whatever I’m doing.  It was bagels this time.  The missus is toasting one.

As I was saying, last month the mister and missus went to a baseball game, at Comerica Park.  That’s where the Tigers play. I see other parks when the mister watches baseball on TV.  Yes, there’s grass in these places, and something like sidewalks.  But unlike MY parks, there are no trees or trash barrels or parking barriers or railroad ties where dogs can post messages.

But OK, if he wants to call it a park, it’s a park.  Really, though, he gets too excited watching sports on TV.  Or politics.  He’d be better off sticking to Law and Order, or reading.    Sometimes, the missus gets mad at him for how he’s acting.  Yelling, pointing.  It’s even worse with the Lions.  That’s a football team here in Michigan.  They won some kind of award or prize last year.  They won it for what the mister called a perfect season in the parallel universe occupied by losers who have gained fame through total failure.

Anyway, I don’t think he had a good time at the game.  He came back smelling annoyed.  He really does like baseball, which he says is the last thing on most people’s minds at Comerica Park.  He said the only athletic feature of the game was getting up and sitting down every two minutes for close to four hours.  He said the people sitting in his row and the one in front of him came to the game only to eat, drink and answer text messages. 

According to the mister, the two men in front of him ate a total of eight hotdogs or bratwursts, two bags of peanuts and two of roasted almonds, a large order of nachos they shared at the beginning as an appetizer, and drank fourteen beers.  He says they tapered off after what’s called the seventh-inning stretch, but closed out the afternoon at the top of the ninth inning with chocolate ice cream bars. 

The mister thinks even more eating and drinking figured on the men’s trips to the toilet and beer stand.  Baseball, according to him, is a slower sport, which means you need to stay alert.  He said it didn’t matter how alert he was, because most of the time he was staring at the back of a Polanco or a Cabrera baseball shirt, what the men in front of him wore to the game. 

But the mister worked hard at not getting angry.  This was because the missus was  enjoying the game.  And also because the two men—for what he says are obvious reasons—were huge.

He also hates all the amplified noise.  He thinks this may stem from the Detroit Tigers being owned by the same man who owns the Detroit Red Wings, a hockey team.  This man bought both teams with money he made selling pizza. 

The Red Wings play their sport at Joe Louis Arena.  It isn’t a park, it’s a big theatre with ice.  The mister says he never goes because it’s so loud.  He thinks the pizza man is now making use of the same behavioral-science techniques at Tigers games—rock music, promotional giveaways, contests, people in uniform being brought out for applause, other people in wheelchairs brought out to be acknowledged for their courage before adversity, flashing statistics accompanied by drums rolls and rim shots (whatever they are). 

None of it is the mister’s thing.  He was glad to get home.

November 7, 2009

Post One Continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 11:54 am
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Hello, my name is Bill.  That’s my picture, and you’re right, I can’t talk or type.  But I am on very good terms with my mister.  He’s decided to speak for us both.

Why doesn’t he just speak for himself?  No idea.  After all, I’m a dog.  But maybe speaking for both of us frees him in some way.  Maybe imagining that I understand him helps him to express what’s on his mind.

Does this signal the onset of dementia?  Could be, he’s pretty old.  All I know is, if it makes him happy, fine with me.  He’s done a lot for me.  Three years ago I was born a mistake, at a puppy mill.  But the day after I was whelped, the breeder didn’t put me in the pillowcase with my littermates.  Instead of drowning me, he let me grow up.  I was big, and he was curious.  When I was nine months old, I escaped into the pine forest. 

That’s when my mister entered the picture.  I was in the woods I don’t know how long, but one day I came out on the road and followed the man who’s clicking all this down.  You could call it my leap-of-faith day, an act of intuition.  I was sick with parasites, couldn’t keep food down.  I’d lost a lot of weight and would be dead soon. 

So I stepped out of the woods, and that particular day the man typing this leaped, too.  With no thoughts about dogs or much else that morning besides bass fishing and golf, he decided to stop, turn around and wait for me.  When I neared him he put out his hand.  I touched it with my nose—and here we are.

It’s also possible that treating me as a co-writer has to do with how disgusted he often is these days with his own kind.  Mornings, he talks about it while reading the paper, evenings when he checks on certain cable TV shows.  He doesn’t watch them for long, just checks.  Sure enough, the same well-fed, dough-colored heads are still yammering.  He talks about them longer and louder if he has more than one rob roy before dinner.

“Yammering, dough-colored heads” doesn’t sound much like a dog, does it?  Chalk it up to life with the mister.  He’s always coming up with stuff like that.    

Clicking away up there at his table, he stops to think.  Then he reaches down and scratches my head.  As we look at each other, he speaks a word.  His eyes are friendly, the way they are when we walk in the woods.  Collaborate is the word.  My mister really does believe we’re doing this together.  It’s because of the way I return his gaze, how I’m ready at any time to go with him, anywhere at all.  That’s why he believes I’m his partner. His collaborator.

The way I trust him–to feed me and not forget to fill my water dish, to crack the van windows when we go shopping–that’s how you should trust that he knows me as well as I know him.  Tomorrow, after our morning walk, he’ll have something to say for himself.

By Barry Knister

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 9:13 am
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Hello, I’m Bill.  This is my picture, and yes, you’re on solid ground in thinking I can’t type.  But I am on very good terms with my mister.  He’s going to speak for us both.

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