the polish de resistance

Or: my first taste of sticking it to the man by way of self-care.

I’ve mentioned the peculiar private school I attended from kindergarten through third — the one that wanted to be half CS Lewis’ Experiment House and half Welton House from Dead Poets’ Society, except a day school, with young children. We had uniforms, we called the principal ‘headmaster’ and had to stand up when he entered a classroom, we learned italicized writing with calligraphic fountain pens, we attended chapel every morning. Wednesdays were particularly tedious, though that is where I first tasted wine. I’m half convinced it was a timeskip back to the fifties. That’s the place that taught me about Big Brother, by way of its CCTV surveillance, before I read 1984.

Anyway.

When I was in the kindergarten class, a memo circulated: no nail polish. I’m not sure why. I want to say one of the girls in class wore some, but I don’t know — memories of things from that far back are really memories of us telling the story before, so at some point I may have added that as a reason and transmuted it to fact. Although I remember learning how to write the number three there, and that my muscle-memory, fresh with victory over the devious two, kept making twos at first.

Point is, there was A Memo, and my mother did not like this, not one bit. She has a low opinion of conformity, and we already had plenty of that, with the uniforms. (I recall I always had very brightly patterned shoes and backpacks. Hmm. Hair ties too. Hmmm.)

When she got that memo, she told me we were going to do something about it. She then painted my nails with clear polish, and told me not to tell anybody they were painted. The point being, you don’t tell my kid what to god damn do with her body. She didn’t say that part, but I got the gist.

I probably told some of my kid friends, shh, I’m wearing CLEAR. I doubt it lasted long, what with digging in the giant sandpit play yard they had. What I remember most about this was sitting in class, covertly looking at my shiny fingernails as I laid my hand on my desk. I remember the feeling of having secretly pulled one over on the powers that be, and them having no idea I’d done it. The delight of getting away with it. It was delicious.

I developed a taste for that. It’s served me well.

Lately, especially in light of Agent Orange stinking up President Obama’s office, my mother has been asking me if she did a good enough job teaching me not to let the man tell me what to do. If I was going to be good at looking for ways around it. I told her this story, which she’d completely forgotten. Now I’ve told you.

When there’s a trap set up for you
In every corner of this town
And so you learn the only way to go is underground
When there’s a trap set up for you
In every corner of your room
And so you learn the only way to go is through the roof

Gogol Bordello – Through the Roof ‘n’ Underground

delirious hallucinating monkeys

For Dags, who fights me every inch of the way on this one.

There are two things I want to quote here first; two things that will seem highly contradictory but, as far as I am concerned, are not.

“Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal!”

This next one is a bit of apocrypha. Everyone quotes it, but nobody cites sources. Mead may not be the author. The concept, however, is a sound one.

“One day a student asked anthropologist Margaret Meade for the earliest sign of civilization in any given human culture.  He expected the answer to be a clay pot, or perhaps a fish hook or a grinding stone. Her answer surprised him.  She said she believed the earliest sign of civilization was “a healed femur”.  The femur is, of course, the thigh bone.  In a society based on hunting and gathering, a person with a fractured thigh bone would be unable to care for themselves and useless.  Meade explained that no healed femurs are found where the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest, reigns.  Someone with a broken femur would simply be allowed to die. But a healed femur showed that someone cared.  Someone had to hunt and gather food for the injured person until his leg healed.  Someone had to provide care for the person who couldn’t care for himself. She said  the evidence of compassion was the first sign of true civilization.”

How did we get there? We don’t have answers yet, not concrete ones. The surviving artifacts can only tell us so much, and short of time traveling historians (Connie Willis, please give us more Oxford) we’ll never get firsthand accounts.

I don’t mean which artifacts came first. We know that, more or less. Tools, hunting weapons, things for survival. But there had to be growth before that. They had to be able to teach each other how to make and use these things. Where to hunt. Which animals to choose. How to gather safe food. First, we had to communicate.

I think it all started with art. Art is useless for survival, they say, but I say it’s not because it’s necessary for communication. Without communication, we don’t have culture. Without art, we don’t have communication. And without dreams, we don’t have art.

Some day forever ago, a hominid had an idea. She worked it up with her disproportionately big brains, or she dreamed it up, or — that doesn’t matter. The ape had the idea, and then, this is vital, she wanted to share it.

How? Did she gesture? Point? Act it out? Vocalize? Draw on the ground with a stick? Build something with twigs and leaves? I have no idea. But that first moment, that realization of having the idea and needing to share it, that’s where we started being what we are now.

What we are is apes with art. Monkeys that dream. Hallucinatory hominids. That early urge to share, to link minds, must have been enormous. We invented languages, long lost. (Say what you will; even Homo Neanderthalensis had a working hyoid bone and thus the ability to speak. Though they perhaps did not sound anything like you’d expect.) We had to have language before we had anything else. We had to be able to communicate to show how to gather food, to share knowledge of safe plants and safe places, to teach children how to cure hides and make fires.

The root of all of this, in my thinking  – and I have a drop-out’s half assed humanities degree, so I am sure I am wrong; if you wish to go on about how wrong I have got it, back your ass up with cites or I’ll grow tired of your blather – the root of it is art. The urge to make things. Making sounds, words, communicating, so that everything else we made or discovered could be shared. Making fires, then, and stone spear points, and clothing from skins. All of that we know. Without the urge to create, the inventiveness we possess – we wouldn’t have any of it. We needed art, first.

What is art, if not making a thing exist where it previously did not? These days we bicker over trivialities, what Is Art or what Isn’t, whether it’s a giant canvas painted in two colors or the gorgeous god damn Chrysler building or pottery so ancient that there are bits of mammoth hair stuck in the clay.

It all is, because that’s what separated us from the other apes. We’re the lunatic dreaming ones, who want to invent and imagine and share.

A few weeks back, a friend showed me a drawing her kid had done of a spider, and the front of it was speckled with little black marks that, said the child, were the spider’s eyes. This blew me away. He’d probably heard about how insects have multifaceted eyes and, in his limited way, with paper and marker, was trying to work that out. He’d seen a new thing, he processed it in his brain, and he drew it to communicate. There is no act more human than that.

We are because of art. We dream and imagine and create and share. That’s what our experimental species is about.

the love song of j. archy prufrock

for Cara

let s go somewhere tonight i said to mehitabel
how about those oyster shell restaurants
i hear they have good eats
oysters she said i like oysters
i know a real smoky dive place archy she said by the river
i went there once with this gent i met
i could ve told her i wanted culture
because i do
but you don t get culture in a place like that
then mehitabel looked at me and asked
what s the matter with you
nothing i told her
the sky i said
the sky looks like it s unconscious
what she said
the only unconscious is me if we don t get some damn grub
now you have me thinking of oysters
i can t eat the sky archy
what is with you tonight archy
she said
nevermind i told her
don t ask me things
let s go see about oysters

in some swank places i bet they talk about michelangelo
not here

you notice a lot of things boss
when you re the size of a cockroach
that yellow smoke on the ground
it s like a london fog
i think
i haven t been to london in this lifetime
or in my last
maybe it s pretty when you are six feet above it
down here though it just makes you cough

i can t remember who else i was
mehitabel says she can remember lots of other lives
that s a lot of memories to have
and a lot of things to have done
you d think she maybe would ve learned a few things

i didn t tell her any of this
what would be the point
it s oysters archy she d say that is the point
maybe it is

i wish i could talk to people about michelangelo

conversation is lacking as a cockroach
nobody wants to know what a cockroach thinks
they d think i was there to amuse them
an ugly thing with too many legs
and not wearing a suit
it s better not to think about that

if i tried they would stare
that hoi polloi hob nob set
they d see me as a specimen
of what i am not sure
but something to reinforce their views

i could tell them the things i tell you
what the street looks like late at night
and the people in it

i could tell them what i know is real
i could tell them fate doesn t care what you do
that old fool pythagoreas
transmogrification is not a meritocracy
no matter what you do or who
you think you are
you could wake up as a cockroach someday
if that does not scare you
then nothing will

it helps a little
to know you are not as important
as you think you are
but it will not help you at all
to know you are as ridiculous
as you fear you are

why couldn t i transmogrify into a crab
i asked mehitabel
if you had said she i would eat you
and feel no guilt about it
i think i d like to live in the ocean
i told her
on the bottom of the sea
tasty she told me
and licked her chops
warningly i thought

we never went inside the oyster place
there was an inviting garbage can around back
i had a peach

we wanted to stay longer
but the tide was coming in

chickens, wodents, and dog iq tests

1. Chickens.

One of my neighbors keeps chickens. This isn’t anything new, back in the day Riley and then Logan were fascinated by the Chicken House. I’ve met the Lady of the Chickens before, she’s entertaining people. She’s got a husband (I assume that’s what he is, or a livein, or something) and a German Shepherd who go tearing about the neighborhood, man on a bicycle and dog on its own four feet. The Shepherd is very interested in my yard, for some reason.

So are Chicken Lady’s newest chickens. There are three of them, very pretty; their feathers are a lovely reddish shade of brown with black edging, giving them a scalloped appearance. They don’t cluck, which surprised me: they whistle, and it’s a charming sound.

It should say something about my life that I went out, got the mail, noticed the chickens, came in, and said to the dog, “Josie, why are there chickens in our yard?” — and then proceeded to do nothing else about it, except for try to get photos when I could.

chickens!

chickens!

The Wild Chicken Gang is three individuals, and I can’t tell whether they’re roosters or hens: they have wattles and the… forehead wattle… and they stick close together. They won’t let me near, though I’ve tried.

They are, as I mentioned, quite pretty.

pretty chicken!

pretty chicken!

While getting the mail (this seems like some kind of adventure and not merely walking twenty feet from my front door to the sidewalk) I saw the chickens and I heard, in the distance, a little ringing bell. I looked around and spotted the Chicken Lady, ringing a small bell, and walking around the streetcorner outside her house.

I decided she might want to know where her flock had gone, so I went to tell her. I told her that I did not mind the chickens’ presence, and they are welcome to scratch for bugs in my yard if they want. I don’t mind, truly, though I have learned chicken scratchings are a messy business. It makes things more entertaining to have Suddenly Chickens in one’s front yard.

“I try to call them back,” she said – she is a little old Southeastern Asian lady with a delightful accent I can’t place; we’ve spoken before, years ago, and I think she mentioned family in Indonesia — anyway, “I try to call them home,” she said, holding up the black-handled brass bell she kept ringing, “I have food for them, but they don’t want it! Good chicken food, they rather hunt for themselves!” I repeated that I didn’t mind — some people would, I expect. Boring people. She’s not boring people; her whole front yard is a wild rambling container garden under a huge shaded tree, and she has chickens in the back, and a Volkswagen bus besides. I try to be not-boring in ways like that. Sometimes I manage, I hope.

So now she knows that sometimes her chickens are here, but I haven’t seen them in a few days and I am worried that something may have happened to them. Hopefully, she’s just managed to keep them home — we have wandering cats and raccoons and hawks, it’s not a good place for a chicken or three to be on their own.

Fun thing though, the chickens do have to cross a road to get to my house, and again to get back home. Why do the chickens cross the road? Good hunting. Grubs in the dirt.

CHICKENS CROSSING THE ROAD!

CHICKENS CROSSING THE ROAD!

2. Wodent Wheels.

On to smaller animals: hamsters. Weee Myshka died at two and a half years old, and after a few weeks I decided that a hamsterless house is just Not Done and sought a replacement, who turned out to be a sweet black-bear Syrian. I have named him Blink because I never see him do it. Don’t get into staring contests with prey animals, you’ll lose. Blink proves to me that black-bear hams indeed have some genetic edge when it comes to tameness; I could handle him the same day he came home, and though he’s a youngster and full of scrambly beans, he doesn’t mind being held.

Blink’s arrival necessitated an upgrade of some of the cage furnishings: specifically, the exercise wheels, which after two adult Syrians’ worth of miles were showing a bit of wear. The Comfort Wheel was misshapen somehow, only able to propel a hamster along at a leisurely stroll. The Silent Spinner, which I love, only comes in a six-inch version and not an eight-inch version, so it’s too small for adult Syrians. Too, after years of taking it apart to soak hamster pee off it, the outer ring no longer fit tightly, and wrapping it in masking tape was not a good solution.

I decided to splash out on a Wodent Wheel, which I’ve wanted since One Eyed Jack, and it arrived yesterday. I set it up, then encouraged Blink in with a cheese-flavored yogurt drop. He dutifully strolled in it for a minute or two, then retreated to his house once I was no longer hovering nearby. Hamsters do not take well to change.

Last night, though, was a different story. I’d read the website, and though it recommended lubricating the axles, I spun the thing and assumed it would be fine.

Big mistake.

I woke around three in the morning to an insistent skree, skree, skree which, in my hazy sleepy state, I think I tried to solve in a dream before I fully woke up. The noise didn’t stop, so it was coming from reality. Josie danced around, confused by my unexpected awakeness and the noise.

skree, skree, skree went Blink, running a hamarathon in his swank new wheel.

I took it out of the cage – with difficulty; now that Blink decided he liked it he wasn’t easily dislodged – and sat there staring at it, sleep-fuzzed and stupid. I took it apart and saw the problem: the metal ring which connects the solid back to the axle had been scraping against the axle. There were little scratch marks in the enameled paint on the metal.

I wrapped it with more of the painter’s tape and put it back. This isn’t a permanent solution, but it’ll do for now. Blink adores the thing, and hamsters are like any other pet: a happily tired one is a well-behaved one.

3. Dog IQ. (This bit is copied from a lengthy Mefi comment and slightly edited.)

I just gave Josie this dog IQ test. She scored a total of 22, which makes her smart, but not Border Collie smart.

The tests were:

1. Put a treat under a cup, encourage dog to get it. Josie sniffed around a bit, looked up at me as if to say “But you always get mad when I bother cups?” and then knocked it over to get the treat. 4 points, according to the test.

2. Dog Under Blanket. I threw a large bath towel over her and started counting. She wiggled her head free pretty quickly and then stood there staring at me, confused. Since the test only mentioned head and shoulders, I gave her 4 points, though she still had the rest of the towel on her. I think I did this wrong, since the test said to just put the towel over her head. Putting the towel away turned into a bit of a tug game because YAY TOWEL.

3. Dog Responds To Smile. I had to wait for her to settle down after all the excitement. I gave her a good gaze and then smiled, and she stared at me like I had lost my mind. No other response. Scored 1 point out of 5. I started laughing and she came right up, so I think she should get extra points for that, but I’ll stick with what the test says.

4. Food Under Towel. See the cookie. See the cookie on the floor. See the towel on the cookie. Whatcha gonna do Josie? Get it! Get it! Josie’s solution to this was to locate the lump indicating the biscuit, then grab it and the towel and take it into another room to solve at her leisure. She did it in thirty-one seconds, which got her three points.

5. Retrieval From Under A Barrier. This was difficult, since Josie shoveled her head under the first few stacks of things and got to the treat without her paws. She is a very strong dog.  Once I built a solid structure out of her bowl, a shoe, and a storage bin full of yarn, she pawed the cookie out in under a minute. Five points. I am not surprised; she is very good at pawing me to great (painful) effect.

6. Does Dog Know Its Name. Using the Happy Voice, I dutifully called, “Refrigerator!” Josie looked at me, confused. I then said, “Movies!” Josie was baffled. “Josie!” She barreled towards me. DAT ME! Five points.

She is giving me curious looks, as if wondering what madness I am going to inflict on her next. Nothing, kid. We’re done, you’re smart.

responsibility makes me pathetic

This is an old story and I probably should have shared it earlier, but.. I didn’t. And I will now because the object of this story has been alternating between pawing at me, nudging me, trying to stand on me, and wedging her horrible claws into the delicate spaces between my toes.

Josie must hate my feet, as much as she steps on them. Of course, she leaves big red welts from her claws. I am not allowed to clip her claws.

As is the done thing with puppies, when Josie turned about six months old I had her spayed. I have handled plenty of spays before, and other than the awkward silence and “well, ONE of us has to rub the ointment into the incision on his THERE” with the Lab-Chihuahua mix, no sterilization has ever gone awry.

But Josie is always special.

I brought her in for the surgery bright and early; as a precaution with anaesthesia I’d kept her NPO since her dinner the evening previous.

Nil per os. Nothing by mouth.

So in we went, Josie and I, and I conspired with the techs. “Can you clip her nails while she’s under?” I asked. Because that’s the only time anybody can do it.

Josie will not be having with people removing her attack talons. She uses them to color on me. I look better in red, apparently.

I left the place content that I would come back to a muzzy stoned dog with an incision in her belly and wonderfully short claws. That afternoon I did things, I can’t remember what. Something with the car, maybe? It wasn’t important.

When I came back to retrieve my pup, I brought my camera because everybody wanted to see Stoned Josie. Here you go.

cone of shame

Yep. She’s aces at peeing on the floor — or was, at the time. As adorable as she was I like her better large and housebroken.

We toddled carefully through what I suddenly realized was a very large pet store, me leading her encouragingly and Josie weaving like the cutest littlest town drunk. People seeing this smiled and laughed. To prove how out of it she was, Josie did not demand attention from any part of her rightful audience.

We made it out of the store, when Josie had a problem. She’d completely forgotten everything about her entire life. She had no idea who she was, where she was, who I was, what was going on, what we were doing, and how her body was assembled.

where iz body?It took a while to remind her that she had legs.

not like carDriving home was also difficult.

Once we got home I gave up and carried her inside, where she slept off the anaesthetics and awoke herself once more: spring-loaded and determined to undo everything I create.

Two days later I brought her back because her incision had become inflamed. We went home armed with antibiotics and dire instructions for me to Keep Her Out Of It. I was baffled, because she’d been kept properly coned the entire time — if I’d managed to take the damned thing off I’d never get it back ON — and it took some careful observation before I figured out the trouble.

Josie was trying to remove her stitches by scratching with her hind feet. That should be anatomically impossible, but — this is Josie. Impossible is her bag.

Thus it was that to keep the incision fully protected from Josie’s blunted but still fearsome talons, I rigged up a wrap made of a loose ace bandage and a maxi-pad, cut in half, to cover the incision and prevent it from injury.

Imagine it, one steamy Florida morning: late summer, humid as dog’s breath. The butterflies and lizards lie quiet in the lianas, waiting for the heat to strengthen. Josie and I slip out into the front yard, where the stairs are smaller and easier for her. I am in my pajamas and my hair probably resembles a discarded Harryhausen sketch of Medusa. My dog has a cone on her head, a leash around her neck, and an ace bandage around her surprisingly tiny waist, holding what is obviously half a maxi-pad.

Down the street walk two people, out to enjoy the morning with their two dogs. All four look wonderful. The people are well-dressed, coiffed, put together. The dogs, a pair of Pits, have gleaming coats over wonderfully thick muscle, and walk beautifully on leash.

I see them.

They see me.

“Oh god,” I say.

They laugh, but gently. “Oh, we’ve been there.”

suddenly, a bee

I heard the bee for some time before I saw it, assuming the sound was a quirk of radio and wishing, like I usually do, for dials that can be more finely tweaked than a button you press which tells you the thing is on 89.7FM, damn it, no matter what you may think.

Static. Bzz. Have you tried turning it off and back on? I like analog better. Let’s not get into fixed volume.

I’ve become an NPR junkie, allasudden — is that correct? “An NPR?” I think it is because you type it as you’d say it, and while I’m sure they say that several times an hour I cannot remember which way they do it — anyhow, I have become a happy NPR junkie, soothed by world news from the calm gentle voices with a “nowhere accent” like I have by default.

I was told, recently, that I have the NPR accent. Best compliment ever. I did not point out that I also have a face for radio, because I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

So I listen to NPR a lot, and I really enjoy the weekend shows: Wait Wait and Radiolab and Snap Judgments, and the news from Lake Wobegon, all the while wondering whether Keillor’s peculiar sibilant whistle will be bad this week or not, because that’s one of those verbal tics that drives me up the damned wall. I was not a fan of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Gopher, for that same reason. And you know, for years, years I spelled it “judgements” and had to retrain myself to kick that spare E out, it’s one of those things where the neuron got baked with incorrect data, and I had to learn it all over again.

Anyway. The bee. I heard her before I saw her, listening to … something or other… on NPR, and since Josie didn’t alert to anything I assumed it was a radio problem.

(this feels like a Riley story, like it should be Riley who found the bee, the way she found possums and hamsters; Josie may be stepping into that empty space as my guardian that Riley left, which is bittersweet)

I don’t know how I noticed her, but I looked up, and distinctly saw the bee, the plump body with stripes, the black legs, the wings, bouncing between a lampshade and the energy-saving Twirly Bulb lighting the lamp.

Then I got a little scared, because I have never been stung and don’t know if I am allergic to bees, and health care is so expensive these days when you can’t even afford Obamacare, and I didn’t know what to do next. Note that I would not mind finding out the hard way if I am allergic to bee stings, if the fix for it was cheap and easily obtained.

So, of course, I turned to the internet. Turn off all the lights, my friends told me, and open a window: the bee will be attracted to light and make her way out the window. I did this thing and waited under the blankets in my bed, because I decided that the more of me that was hidden, the less could get stung by a potentially allergenic bee.

Leaving was not an option, because I wanted to see when the bee left.

A friend of mine keeps bees in England: he has a few hives, he collects honey, he has the smoker and the biohazard suit, and though he has not yet made himself a bee-beard it’s just a matter of time. It’s amusing to see him talking to his bees online (because you know bees are on Facebook) with those English idioms that never made it to America: fill your boots girls! I don’t know if he catches stray swarms. I think so.

My mother had a hive land on her head, a long time ago: she was walking Sadie the Cowardly Mammoth Dog after a few days of heavy rain, and the whole mess slid out of a tree and went whomp on her head. The bees were so startled that they didn’t even sting her, though she (and Sadie) both succumbed to a mighty panic. A nearby neighbor saw this happen and helped my mother get the bees out of her hair and shirt. The woman then helped her corral Sadie who, of course, had lit out of there at the first buzz of trouble and was trying to work the bees out of her own thick coat just down the road.

When your dog is seventy-five pounds of panic, the worst possible thing to do is add bees.

At one point I told the most hilariously unhelpfully smartassy of my friends. It went like this:

She: “I just got flirted with by a drunk guy on Hillsborough.”

Me: “There’s a bee in my bedroom. Trade you.”

She: “Deal.”

Me: “How the hell did it get IN here?”

She: “Flew.”

Me: “Strangely enough I get that part, captain obvious. From where?”

She: “Is from outside obvious too?”

Me: “Yes, you’re missing the how part.”

She: “New toy for Josie?”

Me: “I don’t know why I ask you things.”

The bee never reappeared, and since it was an unseasonable ninety degrees out I closed the window and went about my business. I assumed I could catch one stray bee easily, with a cup and a piece of paper or something, and then let her back outside.

The bee never showed up. I joked about this: maybe Josie ate the bee, maybe little hamster Myshka ate the bee, maybe there’s a hive in the roof. Maybe I’ll find a dead bee behind a bookcase when I move out of here and fall down laughing because at last the mystery is solved. Maybe I should get my English bee-whisperer friend to come over and coax the bee out of hiding.

I didn’t want the bee to die at any point, because I like bees, they are cute and useful, they pollinate things so we won’t starve, and have never plotted to overthrow humanity although we are always stealing their delicious honey. (And I’m back to Pooh-bear.)

That was almost two weeks ago, so you can imagine my surprise when a sluggish bee appeared out of nowhere on the bed next to me. She wasn’t flying, and she was walking slowly, jittery in a way that didn’t seem natural for a bee.

I moved slowly, because one never knows if a seemingly sluggish bee is really a secret revenge bee waiting to leap up and sting an unsuspecting hominid in the eye: do you know how many of us it takes to make all the honey you put in a cup of tea? And you don’t always finish it! I unrolled a good amount of toilet paper, to cushion the bee from my huge crushing megafauna hands, and then I captured the bee in the paper as carefully as I could.

I brought her outside and tipped her out of the paper onto a chair, where she scuttled, dazed but determined, along the plastic seat. She was still moving slowly, dragging a hind leg. Cold maybe, I thought; it’s cold indoors, for a bee used to living outside.

I took a deep breath, held it for a moment to warm all the air, and then blew gently on the bee. She scuttled a little faster, but that was all.

drwhoairI blew on the bee again and off she flew, into my back yard thick with flowers, and the warm summer sun, and I hope off to her home.

the littlest anarchist

I have mentioned, I think, that dogs and kids like me. I understand the dog thing – I’m around them pretty much constantly, I speak their language as well as I can in this funny hominid body, and I can read theirs pretty well. It’s the kids I don’t understand. I’m not a Kid Person. I think of them much as I think of dogs, which is: this is a small critter with a limited vocabulary, no sense of impulse control, and can move like the damn wind when they have a mind to do it. I often pat them on the head, which is all their fault because they’re within head-patting range.

"You're really cute, but I have no idea what you're saying!"

“You’re really cute, but I have no idea what you’re saying!”

One of my Occupy friends, Pappy, decided to do me the world’s biggest favor by attacking my back yard with machete (I told you about Florida gardening and machetes), shovel, hedge loppers, and bare hands, turning the overgrown weedy jungle into a swathe smooth as a dog park. All I had to do was keep him company, keep Josie from being too much of a nuisance, and provide a lift to and from where he lives, a house full of people called the Anarchist Sweat Shop.

I am one hundred percent not making this up. They’re a bunch of activists and related ne’er-do-wells who protest, study, and garden. There are a few cats running about the place, tons of people, and I am told two Costa Rican tarantulas. They live off the grid as much as possible in a sizable city like this one, gleaning expired food at supermarkets, dumpster diving for stuff, growing tons of food of their own. They’re always working on projects, building stuff, growing stuff. It’s like one of my mother’s Back In The Day stories come to life, but with more spiders and internet, and she was tickled pink when I told her about them.

I don’t know these people very well because I’m me and nearly criminally awkward-shy, especially in a crowd, but the youngest one, little Kriz, has decided I’m good people, and since he is three years old I have no idea what to do with that.

HOW DO I FUNCTION AS A HUMAN BEING?

HOW DO I FUNCTION AS A HUMAN BEING?

This is where the funny story of yesterday starts: we rolled up in my car, I pulled halfway into the driveway, Pappy ran off to grab something for me, and little Kriz ran up to say hi. He then brought me a milk crate from a stack out front. (Inside my head: Dog brings ball. Kid brings crate. Okay, I get it, I think.) He handed me the crate and I took it to put it back on the stack, saying something about “hon, I don’t need that, but thank you.”

Somewhere during this little exchange, everyone else vanished. Oh hell.

I figured if I could distract the boy for a few minutes, somebody else would turn up eventually, and — see above re: Awkward and Shy, I wasn’t going to bring him inside because I pretty much need written invitations into other peoples’ space and that’d be Intruding — so I grabbed a seat on the milk crate to talk to Kriz. He tried to hoist himself up onto a stack of two next to me, failed, and then gave me this look like “You’re supposed to lift me up here.” So I did.

It occurred to me that introductions were probably in order, so I told him my name and asked for his. I held out my hand to shake it (I. AM. SO. AWKWARD. JESUS. CHRIST.) and he offered me his tiny hand, very solemnly, which he wrapped around two of my fingers.

“I had a sandwich,” he told me, and then he bounced off the crate stack like a flea and went straight for my car, which still sat idling with the driver’s door open, half in the driveway and half in the street.

“CAN I PLAY DRIVING?” he asked, halfway in.

I went through some very quick thoughts there. One: kids told not to do things they want to do often cry about it, and the only thing I know how to deal with less than a child is an upset one. Two: if my mother, my dogs, and my own self haven’t killed that car, a three-year-old boy probably can’t within the space of five minutes. And then three: I hope that’s all right with whoever’s minding him because he’s already in. “Lemme just turn it off,” I said, reaching in and pulling the keys out of the ignition, and redirecting him away from pulling the gearshift. “Go on, go drive.”

He couldn’t see over the steering column, so he knelt up on the seat, tugging the bottom of the wheel ineffectually – fortunately it locks when shut off – and then laid into the horn. He looked at me with an ear-to-ear grin and did it again.

This is when everyone reappeared, when my Awkward-Ass Stranger self had let their kid goof around inside her car, honking the horn, pulling the wheel, yanking every lever within reach.

To my surprise, nothing ended in calamity. We coaxed little Kriz out of my car — and he then told me that the window was up with such determination that I put it down, even though I’d be putting it right back up after, because the weather is broken and on the day after the Winter Solstice the high was eighty-five degrees. I got a hug and a crate full of veggies and snacks, and then was on my way — with my left blinker and the windshield wipers both going at a rapid clip, because levers must be pulled.

I don’t know how these things happen. I really don’t. Kids gravitate towards me and I do not understand because I am as maternal as a coral polyp. The last significant amount of time I spent with children of any age, I was that age too. I have no idea what to do around them. But they like me anyway. I don’t understand this at all.

we burn our dead

According to the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia in 1222 the Estonians even disinterred the enemy’s dead and burned them. It is thought that cremation was believed to speed up the dead person’s journey to the afterlife and by cremation the dead would not become earthbound spirits which were thought to be dangerous to the living. [Cite.]

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t had my medication adjusted back in September. I’d been a shambling zombie of depression, and while I can’t say that it won’t come back, because that monster always does, I’ve got a bit of distance from it now.  Most of the time. Not always. But I’m doing better.

One thing the medication hasn’t fixed is that I feel like a blatant fraud whenever I go Do The Things, and most of the time I am desperately hoping a Designated Responsible Adult will show up. That’s anxiety, more than depression, but they feed off each other. Round and round they go. You’re not fooling anybody, it says, trying to be responsible when we both know half an hour ago you were outside catching lizards.

Which is why yesterday — or today; it’s the dark hours of the night — was so interesting.

My family kept trying to talk me out of showing up to my uncle’s memorial. You don’t have to go, they said; your mom’s doing her physical rehab and might need you around; you just lost a friend this week already. But I thought about Thich and the things I learned from him, and decided that if they wanted me to be there, I’d be there. Like nursing Riley through her final illness, or being there during Miss Clavel’s surgery, it wasn’t about me, it was about what I could give.

I spoke with the younger of my two cousins about it. I told her, “It’s up to you, if you guys want me there, I’ll be there.” She thought about this a bit and said, “Okay. I’m going to be selfish, I want to see you.” So it was decided.

Then there was a mad rush to get appropriately funereal clothes because, although we are a clan of lulzy derps, we stick to the Old World Traditions in the weirdest ways. You always turn out properly for big life events like weddings and funerals, and we’re fussy about cutlery too. And superstitions, but I’ve already written about those.

Amber gave me a nice spaghetti-strap dress, and at the thrift I found a cardigan to put over it (my aunt thought they were a set, they went so well) and clompy platform sandals that delighted my inner grunge teenager.

I was all on track, everything ready, when Josie threw a wrench into my plans by developing spontaneous and slightly horrific GI difficulties. She had a bad case of splatterbutt, is what I’m getting at, and she had it in the house. A few times. All night.

It seems that every time I wind up at a familial gathering I do so on very little sleep and too much coffee.  I really wish I knew why this happens. I probably don’t eat enough herring.

I promise, it starts getting funny now.

I woke up in a rush after snoozing my phone alarm for a solid hour, and panicked my way through coffee, checking on Josie, taking Josie out, taking a shower, taking Josie out, more coffee, an unexpected rambling call from Miss Clavel where she asked for my opinion but really wanted me to validate hers and argued when I didn’t agree, and then more coffee. Amber, who along with her boyfriend has been staying with me the past week and will for a bit longer, was helpful by occasionally yelling YOU’RE STILL UP, RIGHT? She knows me so well.

Note that at no point was food involved, though I did manage to remember my meds.

I called the vet to double-check which bland food is best for dogs with splatterbutt, and after I told them what was up (Josie, problem, funeral soon, ARGH ARGH ARGH HELP) the guy on the phone said the best thing anyone could say at that point.

“Says here you have the wellness plan, so if you want, you can drop her off here and we’ll take a look at her while you’re busy.”

What I heard: “FREE PUPPY DAYCARE. CLEANED UP AFTER BY PROFESSIONALS. YOU WILL NOT COME HOME TO A CRATE THAT HAS BECOME A SEPTIC TANK.”

Thus it was that when I dashed out the door in my psedo-WASP funeral garb, but with my pink running shoes on because I wasn’t wearing the others until I had to, toting my purse, my backpack with civvies inside, and my water bottle, I also had not-so-little-anymore Josie tagging along, farting pungently as she went.

IMG_20130911_113017

This is not from that morning, but it adequately shows her WHO ME? face. I love that stinkin dog.

When we got to the vetshop I went tearing through to the back, where I tried to compose myself, and what came out was more or less this: “Hi I do not want to be that jerk but I am running so late to a funeral it’s like a hundred damn miles and I talked to people on the phone earlier about my dog having gut issues and someone said they’d keep her here and look at her while I’m at the funeral and. God. Sorry.” Then I breathed back in.

In a Nice Dress and battered pink and grey running shoes. As one does.

After filling out some forms (Please give us a description of fecal consistency: Evil pudding) and handing my pup over, I was back on my way. I got on the highway, made sure Josie hadn’t eaten the directions I’d copied the night before, cranked the radio up, and put the pedal down.

Some thirty minutes later, I got off on the right exit, but then everything else went wrong.

I have a problem with Lakeland/Winter Haven, or maybe more accurately it has a problem with me. It doesn’t want me there. I’m like a homing pigeon with a magnet strapped to its head. It does not help that none of the roads are straight, each of them has three names, and they seem to alternate which name is advertised on the street signs at random. There is nothing resembling any kind of highway or other Road Upon Which One Quickly Covers Ground once you get off the interstate. You have to drive slowly, not only because the signs say so, but also because the retirees boxing you in with Lincoln Towncars give you no choice in the matter.

Were they drunk when they laid all the roads out?

Were they drunk when they laid all the roads out?

I did not ask my aunt for directions because, bless her, I can never understand the way she gives them. I think like a GPS: I need street signs, lefts and rights. She counts stop lights and names landmarks. So instead of, say, scooting along until I hit Old Dixie Highway (this is a real road out there) and going right, she would have me in a permanent panic wondering if this Burger King is the one that has the IHOP at the intersection where I need to turn left and keep going until there’s a Walgreens at which point I turn right and wait for the enormous row of factories and there’s a kinda-left there.

(If/when you read this, you know I love you, right?)

My directions worked, and I got where I needed to go. The funeral home had its name prominently blazoned on a big sign, and it was next to a cemetery, and it had two cars parked out front. I wondered if I’d missed the ceremony. I contorted myself in the car, taking off my sneakers and putting on The Clompy Tall Shoes, put my sweater on demurely over my fuchsia bra straps, grabbed my bag, and went inside. I asked a nice old man at the front desk if I’d missed the service for my uncle.

It turned out that while it is a local business, they have expanded operations and have two facilities in Winter Haven. The memorial was at the other one.

FFFFUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHH.

“Okay,” I said to the nice old man, and I wish I could have seen my face because a mix of Trying To Be Polite and Trying Not To Panic probably makes me look like a murderous axe-wielding maniac, “how do I get there?”

He started to talk about lefts and rights and a 7-11 and an apartment building. I held up a hand and said, “I’d better write this down.” He ambled off to look for paper, and I fished for a pen in my purse. I came up with the sonic screwdriver that lights up and makes noises, right as he came back.

Correction: I must have looked like a maniac about ready to kill someone with some kinda whiz-bang plastic toy.

The nice old man, who I am sure deals with weirder things than me in his line of work every day, proceeded to start saying exactly what he was saying before, except this time he drew me a map on an enormous sheet of paper as he talked.

whut.

What.

I thanked him, confused, then went back to the car, where I turned it on and stared at the map. I was already forgetting things. The big round part was a lake, obviously, and the long hatched line was a railroad track, and the other lines were intersections, but not all of them and… huh?

Then I noticed the address in the corner (Josie nommed it a bit on our way home later) and, deciding that technology was the better part of valor, I plugged it into the Google Maps thing on my phone.

A button popped up: Get Directions.

I pushed it.

A canned tinny voice said, “Turn left. Turn left.”

HOLY SHIT MY PHONE HAS A GPS NAVIGATOR IN IT!

I found my way to the other funeral home without incident, but very slowly, and as I pulled up I was over an hour late. I noticed that I did indeed pass a 7-11 and some railroad tracks and a “thing like a hill with apartments on it but you don’t turn up there.”

This other funeral home had a parking lot jam-packed and two people standing outside. I pulled into what should have been a parking spot and rolled my window down. They walked to me.

“Is this the memorial for [uncle]?” Yes, it was, and the reception was underway. “Great. Where can I park?” They said it wasn’t marked as a parking spot, but it certainly looked like one. “Hey, as long as I don’t get towed, I’m happy.” They doubted I would be. “I’m sorry. I’m from Tampa.” They said that was okay.

I think I said that last bit about ten times, in different places.

Inside I found a very somber-looking man in a suit who led me to the reception area when I asked where it was. As soon as I was in the room my aunt spotted me. She is very small and moves very quickly. What she said next came out as one big word as she latched on and squeezed me.

“OHHJULIEHIIISOGOODTOSEEEYOUUUUU.” Breath. “The service was hysterical! I’m sorry you missed it! He kept cracking jokes, one after another, it was so funny.”

… my family, ladies and gentlemen. You see where I get it.

I apologized for being late, and was told it was wonderful I was there at all, and then I got led around to find people I knew. There weren’t many; the local Estonian Contingent has gotten pretty small since the immigrant generation died, and some of the others didn’t show up. But I got to see my cousins, both daughters of the deceased and another somewhat more distantly related, and we all caught up. Especially the latter; he and I had run around at my uncle Hans’ place on Anna Maria (my grand-uncle, his grandfather) when we were kids, and I hadn’t seen him in forever, so I got thoroughly interrogated.

He and I talked about the cremation thing, which was funny. “We go the Viking way,” he said. I told him what I’d learned from Wikipedia, about ghosts.

Everyone wanted to hear about the Buddhist funeral. Everybody. My aunt clearly had played Telephone with that piece of news, telling everyone that I’d been to a Buddhist funeral. So first I had to explain that it wasn’t properly a funeral, and things got more confusing from there.

During all of that I was reminded, repeatedly, that there was food, and asked if I’d grabbed anything to eat, and there are drinks over there, and have you seen the food? Our family motto, if we had one: “There’s food!” I located the coffee, because at that point I was starting to fade, and Army Cousin and I spent a while happily eating the little brownies and boston-cream puffs and did you TRY this thing with strawberry and chocolate?

There’s food! It’s right here! GO EAT.

There was even funereal water. Who makes that, I wonder?

There was even funereal water. Who makes that, I wonder?

I got hugged repeatedly by everyone I knew, and was told that they loved me and were so happy to see me. That felt really good, and was also unexpected, because being the Mentally Ill Black Sheep means I didn’t get out to the non-death-related shindigs and didn’t hear much from anybody, and was not sure whether I particularly mattered. I’ve wondered for years whether that lack of communication is because people tend to shy away from The Crazy, or whether it was the general inability to do anything that made people stop reaching out. I’m still not sure. I didn’t ask; it didn’t seem the right time for it.

After more hugs and jokes and pictures and swapping email addresses and phone numbers and DID YOU EAT, people started to disperse. (Funny sidenote: I was right about the clothes. It was warm in there, so I shed my sweater and apologized for the fuchsia bra straps. My aunt said, “Do whatever makes you comfortable,” but then said she’d have to photograph me from the neck up, so I put it back on. Meanwhile someone else, I’ve no idea who, had a zebra-striped miniskirt.)

My aunt and my cousins asked me to stick around, so I did, and we chatted some more while everything was cleared away. I talked to the younger of the two about dogs; she’s got a lovely fawn and white Pit, and we went on a great tear about how it is so wrong the way those dogs are viewed, etc. I showed her a picture of Josie and she could not get over that ear.

The food was a problem; namely, that while the gathering was about as expected, none of them ate. Or, more accurately, none of them ate enough. PEOPLE, YOU WERE TOLD THERE WAS FOOD. I said I’d be happy to take some home, and before I knew it I had a buffet tray the size of a manhole cover filled with croissant sandwiches.

Go to a funeral, get sent home with leftovers. Hey, grab a bottle of soda too.

I dug my backpack out of my car and happily changed back into my regular clothes. We loaded everything into the cars, took more pictures, and then they left. I waited a bit longer, calling the vet back (they were on their lunch break) and getting the WHOA I HAVE A GPS NAVIGATOR set up so that I’d make my way back to I4 and not wind up in Lake Okeechobee.

Then I drove. A lot. The drive back was probably shorter than the drive to, but it didn’t feel like it. I had, at that point, only had two cups of coffee and a couple of brownies and chocolatey things. I was operating on four hours of sleep. I was going to crash hard at some point and I knew it.

I met someone interesting at the gas station.

I met someone interesting at the gas station.

Let me tell you: Polk discombobulates me so thoroughly that when I was finally on the ramp to I4 and the GPS was saying “Go left. Go left.” I still wound up heading east on the damn highway for a mile until the next exit before I could get turned around properly.

Driving back was better: I trusted the GPS to an extent, I was in no big hurry, and I was wearing jeans and sneakers again. But I knew the inevitable caffeine-chocolate-sugar-exhaustion collapse was coming. And I still had to get my dog.

I could feel myself relax once I was back in places where I knew what the highway exits were. No big surprise, after so much being lost, but it was still a mistake. Relaxing invites the tiredness.

It's good to come home after a busy day. Yes, I was driving; no, I was not distracted. I just fired the camera button a few times. This one worked. Shoot from the hip, or as it was, the dashboard.

It’s good to come home after a busy day. Yes, I was driving; no, I was not distracted. I just fired the camera button a few times. This one worked. Shoot from the hip, or as it was, the dashboard.

The highway led right to the road which led right to the vetshop, so I got there, texted Amber something about bless the mother of God and all her wacky nephews for I am home again, got out of the car, and headed for the bathroom just as quickly as I’d headed for the vet desk that morning.

“We’re really busy,” the guy manning the desk told me. “Might be a while.”

“Long as I’m not in the car I’m happy. I had to go to Winter Haven.”

“Is that near Ocala?”

“Felt like it.”

Once I finally got to talk to the vet, I was feeling the beginning of The Crash. The tests ruled out giardia, and the vet said likely it was Stupid Puppy Ate Thing She Shouldn’t Have, or perhaps an intolerance to new kibble, and would probably resolve itself in a day or two. But they had dewormers and antibiotics ready. We talked about the bland food — finally I had my answer, and I had been right all along, boiled chicken and white rice.

I said I’d like to see if it resolved on its own, with bland food and more of the old kibble, which they had little bags of. Then, if it didn’t, I’d come back and get medicine. He said that sounded great.

I am so used to vets who all but shove medicine at you and adopt the nuke-it-from-orbit medication strategy while assuming the pet owner knows jackshit. It was really nice to be taken seriously. Since my previous vet was leaving, I asked if this one could be my new usual vet. He seemed happy about that.

I finally collected Josie, who peed all over the floor in her excitement to see me again, and we headed home.

Later, while I was outside with my dog, I caught a lizard, because guess what, anxiety? I totally can handle shit like an adult at the vet, and go to a funeral in nice clothes, and drive around and get lost and get home okay, and anxiety, you can suck it.

Responsible Adult Catches Lizard: news at eleven.

Responsible Adult Catches Lizard: news at eleven.

a teacher and a friend

The old woman in the wheelchair was outside the front door of the building, slowly skittering the chair along with her feet, because old folks’ arms tend not to be strong, particularly ones who stay in places like this.

I asked her if she’d like a push, and she said okay if it was no trouble for me, not fully believing it. I said it wasn’t trouble at all, because it wasn’t. She sort of protested, and I playfully argued it off — “these things are easy to drive around, you just tell me where you’re headed!” Having a guide was nice, too. It turned out she was headed to the same floor I was, so I drove her to the elevator, turned her around inside it, and left her in the open area by the elevators on the second floor. “You’re going that way,” she said, “and I have to go this way. Thank you so much.”

“Okay,” I told her. “You have a good day, honey.” Because I am so Southern it hurts, sometimes.

That was no trouble at all for me. A hell of a lot of work, it seemed, for her. So why not offer to do it?

My mother’s in a place where they do physical rehab for the elderlies, because on the second-most recent hospital visit she fell and hit her head — the nurses at Memorial are idiots — and then at the most recent one, they suggested she do the physical therapy and rehab to improve her mobility, which could use improvement, and decrease the falling, which is what all this hospital business was about to begin with.

My friend John died last weekend; I wrote about him here before. I’ve been thinking a lot about John, or Thich which was his monk name, and the things I’ve learned from him. A lot more than I’d realized I learned, which is something he would have gotten a kick out of: whenever I think about a conversation we had, or something he taught me, it twists around and turns into something new. That’s so very like him; that’s how he was. He’d take an idea, turn it around, tilt it against the light, make it look like something different, and then ask how everyone else saw it.

What color is your mind?

I attended a memorial for him tonight, after I visited my mother; it was a haphazard combination of a memorial and poetry-slam night for Veterans For Peace at a coffeeshop I hadn’t visited in.. oh, a good ten years. I got to meet people I’ve gotten to know online, which was great. Lots of hugging. Activists like hugs. There were show tunes and spoken word and standup comedy; there were stories and remembrances and a slideshow video.

A Tibetan monk, who was here from Boston, told us about how he’d come to his understanding of loss through losing most of his friends and family to Chinese incarceration, then delivered a beautiful chant for the dead. A man with a group of traveling performers from Tennessee led us in a moment of silence, having us call out names of those gone or those alive who we felt we had parted badly from; several people called out names. I called one. A woman John had known led us all in an Indian folk song which is repeated four times; by the fourth, we all were singing along. It’s a powerful thing, though simple, to get a group of people all to do one thing together like singing or thinking or remembering or laughing. We had all of those things.

It was John’s sister Mary who nailed it though; she knew him best of all, though she had no idea how many lives he’d touched. When she went to inform everybody of what had happened, she took his phone and realized there were three-hundred-something names in there. She sent out texts; her phone rang nonstop for the week.

What she said stuck with me because it crystallized what I’d been thinking about him: that he was so kind, and so gentle, and so patient, that he always had time for anyone he met, regardless of color or gender or appearance or anything else, and if he could help, by teaching or feeding or listening, he would. And what she wanted us to do, to remember him, was to do those things: to help, to listen, to give, to people who need it.

The funny thing about that is, she could just as easily be talking about herself.

That is why, when I saw the old woman making her slow way to the door, I remembered my friend and I offered to help. Maybe I can only do small things, but hey, maybe I only need to do small things.

via wikimedia commonsThích Giác Ngộ, John William Missing, thank you for everything you gave me. I’ll miss you. I’m proud to call you a friend.

the ear glop of doom

Sometimes when you take your pet to the vet it’s like a modern re-enactment of a Herriot story: everyone is confident and capable, the animals are charming, the treatments are easily handled, and everyone laughs happily when the pet does something cute.

The rest of the time when you take your pet to the vet it’s like a modern re-enactment of the other Herriot stories: someone gets injured, there’s mysterious muck everywhere, nothing happens the way it should, and the laughter is forced if anyone even tries because what the hell a puppy should not do that.

Josie’s vet visit last week was the second kind, unfortunately, starting with some other dog bleeding on her on its way out of the groomer, and going downhill from there.

I like to think that if Danes could talk they would sound like Andre the Giant. "Hello!"

I like to think that if Danes could talk they would sound like Andre the Giant. “Hello!”

But we did meet a sweet and beautiful Great Dane, which makes up for a lot of trauma and drama. (Note: Josie has a tail. When she gets really excited it becomes invisible from wagging.)

Everything that could go wrong in an exam did. She flipped out and turned into a Feral Hellbeast when they tried to clip her claws. They tried taking her into the back, because sometimes the fight goes right out of a dog when the owner is not in the room. No dice; I heard her from the exam room. It sounded like someone was wrestling with an angry Jawa. They came out defeated and removed the claw-clip from the bill. The temperature and fecal loop somehow released a bad rawhide-induced case of splatterbutt all over the floor.

I asked for a microchip to be installed, although they recommended doing it during the spay while she would be unconscious, because I felt worlds of uneasy with an unchipped puppy scampering around. Besides, I reasoned — and explained — I’d had plenty of dogs chipped during exams and they all took it fine, even Buster of the Terrible Howling. That.. that didn’t go so well either, though they got it in once they reassembled the needle. The ear exam went well, as far as damage or befoulment, but it turned out the pup’s got a yeast infection in her ears.

I’m sure they were happy to see the back of us, leaving armed with a paper bag full of printouts and otic medication.

There were two medications: one small foil tube of ooze that is to be squeezed deep into her ear, and then one big bottle of stuff that smells like vinegar and artificial apple scent, which I figure is supposed to mask the vinegar but doesn’t do it at all.

I figured that, at least, would be okay; I’ve had to dose many a dog’s ear (and cat’s too) in my time, and aside from the inevitable bit where they shake it off and get it in my eye or up my nose, there’s never been a real problem.

Not so, said little Josie. She’d been prodded, asculcated, injected multiple times — kid, I didn’t say while they were chipping her, but I was thinking this, kid I’ve had bigger needles put through my ears and I didn’t yell about it — and, of course, the indignity of things being put up her butt. Josie wanted revenge.

I thought it would be so easy. Flip her ears up, hold her head, squirt glop into each ear, flip ears back down, massage to get it deep into the inner workings of her recording apparatus. Nope. Josie did her rabid Jawa impression again. I think it was fear or panic, not pure I KEEL YOU aggression; once I backed off she was calm and contrite, licking my fingers, licking her nose, rolling her eyes away to placate me, flattening her ears, pawing at the air, making herself small while edging near me for comfort.

Here’s the weird thing: I can put my hands in her ears up to the shoulder and she doesn’t care. I can swab in there with cotton balls until I am massaging her little peanut brain and her eyes roll back in her head because it feels good. But a bottle — or a foil tube — with an applicator, that makes noises? Panic. Biting, clawing, snarling, weasels-in-a-sack panic.

The worst thing you can do with a scared dog is escalate, so brute force was out. I had to get tricky about this. I needed a pleasant way to distract her while I deftly put the glop in her ears. This way she would learn that otic medicine is not the end of her life, and also that it comes with some kind of delicious reward. Hopefully, I thought, it would desensitize her to the feeling until I could dig around in those ears with salad spoons if I wanted.

I don’t know about that last part, yet, but I’ve hit a system that works. I will detail it here.

1. Get good sized glob of peanut butter out of jar with right pinky finger.
2. Close jar while puppy climbs on me; prepare Remicin for quick deployment.
3. Smear peanut butter all over roof of Josie’s mouth. The more it’s spread, the more she has to work on it.
4. With pinky outstretched like I’m making tea, grab Remicin tube.
5. Grab/scruff pup with left hand.
6. Ninja-dose her ears with Remicin while she works on the NOM NOM PEANUT BUTTER DELICIOUS OM NOM NOM.
7. Put cap back on Remicin—
7.1. Retrieve cap from puppy.
7.2. Stop puppy from licking peanut buttery hands.
7.3. Stop puppy from licking Remicin tube because it goes in the ears and not in the mouth, dummy.
7.4 Put cap back on Remicin, put it and peanut butter jar away.
8. Give up and let puppy lick my whole hand up to the elbow just in case she missed any of the peanut butter that was only ever on my little finger.
9. Wash. Thoroughly.
10. Rub puppy’s ears which create the most delightfully nasty icky-squishy noises. She likes that part. MMM. EARSQUISHY.
11. Wash hands again because that stuff gets everywhere.

The good news is that now my bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen are now protected from otic yeast infections.  The bad news is that my deck smells like fake green-apple douche.

You're lucky you're so cute, kid.

You’re lucky you’re so cute, kid.