Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pet Peeves (pun intended)

Sola hates mats. Bath mats, door mats, floor mats. Put a mat somewhere and she enters seek and destroy mode. You always know when Sola has been in a room. Any and all mats that previously occupied space in that room will be:

a.) Scrunched up
b.) Flung from their designated position
c.) Generally disrupted

Upon entering a room, she'll make a quick visual sweep. Once she has locked on to her target she approaches it, her eyes glazed over. I watch in horror, one eye cracked open as she centers herself over her victim. I scream "Get the women and children covered!" as all hell breaks loose. The noise and commotion echo throughout the house as she uses all of her might to attack her foe. Nigel dives for cover in the cracks of the couch, just his nose visible as he struggles to hold his breath until the violence subsides.

And it does, but not before Sola has had her way. She pummels and heaves as withers and flank tense and relax in a fury of motion, carried out with machine-like precision borne from relentless repetition. Mats fly from the room in clouds of smoke like scorched magic carpets. In the forest surrounding our house all living creatures flee. Bomb-warning sirens pierce the air.

The faint clickety-clack of her claws meeting bare floor tells us the great battle is nearly over. She drops to the floor and emits a victory grunt, and we all creep from our hiding places and peer through the dust to survey the damage. And there is Sola, occupying space where an innocent bath mat used to reside. She sleeps and enjoys the spoils of a fight hard-won.

The cleanup begins, and Mrs. Author curses under her breath as she attempts to restore order. Nigel takes a drink of water to ward off stress-induced dehydration. I chuckle to myself, unable to disguise my amusement.

And why am I so amused? Because Mrs. Author loves mats. Bath mats, door mats, floor mats. If someone invented a new type of mat, say...a middle-of-the-floor mat...we would own it in at least three different color-coordinated schemes. Were we to entertain having children (we are NOT, mother) I am certain Matthew would be at the top of the list of boy names. Other people have guest towels; we have guest mats. For years I have searched in vain for a pair of earrings with little dangly bathmats hanging from them.

Each time we relocate I stand back and watched her handiwork. If there is space for any type of mat in a room she will map it out as she strategizes maximum potential coverage. In these times, when she is in the "mat zone", I step aside and let her take care of business. She studies the floor from a few different angles, cranes her neck, crouching at times for a "better feel". She is oblivious to her surroundings. I scoop up the car keys and we're off.

The selection process is a complete mystery to me because I am forbidden to participate. I wait in the car with Sola, watching intently for her reaction. When her hackles rise I look up and sure enough, Mrs. Author emerges from Sprawl*Mart, carrying impossibly large bags stuffed with mats of all shapes and sizes. She has a look of contentment that I have witnessed on only a few occasions: post mat purchases, and the day that I proposed marriage to her. As Mrs. Author nears the car I hogtie Sola before the mats are destroyed en masse. I know this dance all too well.

We are not "officially" moved in until mats have been washed, starched and ironed, placed and christened with fine champagne. What happens next is out of our hands. Sola begins to change. There is no other way to describe it; she just seems a bit off-kilter. The rest of us in the house let out a collective sigh, defeated. Sola and Mrs. Author stare each other down in anticipation...

And on and on it goes. We have yet to understand why mats anger Sola as they do. I have some ideas. Maybe Sola just prefers to lie on the cooler surface of a bare floor. It is a boring conclusion, so I pretend that is not the case. But we did have this Border Collie, Casper (more about Casper in future posts). Casper hated mats. Bath mats, door mats, floor mats. All mats he encountered suffered the same wounds that we have watched Sola inflict. I am convinced that as Sola's eyes cloud over in preparation for battle, Casper has come back from the grave to take possession of her in order to be certain that we shall never coexist peacefully with floor coverings. That might sound a little crazy, but I loved Casper dearly, so I'm sticking with that theory.

Either way, it's still a hoot to observe. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to search eBay for some earrings....

Sola: Good God are you long-winded. Much ado about nothing. I do as the voices tell me.
Nigel: She's a SuperFreak, SuperFreak, she's SuperFreakaaayow.....

WARNING: Mrs. Author's mat affliction has been a well guarded secret for years. If she happens across this post I run the risk of strangulation by my own pillow. Should my posts end with this one, please call 911.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Shades of Grey

This post brought to you by (see previous post) Percocet.

How's it hanging Nigel?

Nigel: It's not. You had me fixed.

Author: Oh yes, sorry about that. That would explain the empty change purse you carry around with you.

Nigel: You are a real hoot.

Author: So anyway, tell me about the beginning - the time before we met.

Nigel: Not much to tell. I was raised with a large group of young, nutty Greyhounds that were a bunch of morons. They fell for the fake rabbit trick. Not me - check my racing record. Click on stats at the top of this page http://www.greyhound-data.com/d?i=462479

Author: I see...where did you find that link?

Nigel: Don't be ridiculous; I can't type. You need to lay off the painkillers.

Author: I'm looking at your racing record. You raced seven times in 2003. What an impressive career.

Nigel: Have you noticed how it appeared that I had a "mishap" in almost every race? I planned for an early retirement. The perks of racing life were lost on me. So that's how I ended up here.

Author: We're very glad that you did. And in reviewing your pedigree information, I'm reminded of your racing name. It bears no resemblance to the name we chose for you.

Nigel: Thank Jesus. What were these people thinking? In case they hadn't noticed, a large portion of my coat is black. And they named me Tom Koon.

Author: It gets better. A common practice is to take a portion of a Greyhound's racing name and use it. My previous Greyhounds were (racing names) Thunder Mountain and RC Brennie B. So we went with Thunder and Brennie as their names.

Nigel: So the folks at the Greyhound adoption service abbreviated my name and just called me Koon. What were they thinking?

Author: Hence the name change. I didn't want to stand at the dog park in a large crowd of people shouting, "Come here KOON" to my predominantly black dog. I don't need to be jailed for a hate crime.

Nigel: And I don't think a white hood would suit you. But you did live in Alabama...

Author: I'd rather forget that.

Nigel: So I met a bomb sniffing dog the other day.

Author: Really? That's interesting.

Nigel: I guess you could say that. He seemed way too tense. I asked him what he did. He said, "Well, I search buildings, cars, trains and planes for bombs. If I do a good job and find a bomb I get treats." I almost fell over. He noticed I was looking at him as though he had an extra tail growing out of his forehead and asked me what I did. I replied, "I sleep on the couch about sixteen hours a day. I roll over a few times, go out three or four times. And if I'm lucky Sola will walk by and smooch my parts. Then I get treats."
He cried and ran away.
I can't help but think that bomb sniffers must resent their owners. Imagine if you humans were subjected to that sort of treatment. It's your first day of school, and as you're getting on the bus your parents tell you that one day each week, in order to get your lunch, you have to run across the freeway in L.A. a couple of times. You never know what day it will be, but when you reach for your lunchbox on Thursday you suddenly find yourself being shoved in to that first lane of traffic. You explain to your parents that you'll be happy to skip lunch today. Heck, you'd give it up for a week if they'd let you just go home. But no, you HAVE to eat lunch. And first you play this game of Russian roulette in order to have it.
Something tells me that might make you just a tad crazy. I think I'm content to stay right here thank you.

Author: Glad to hear that. But I have to ask - why the long face?

Nigel: Like I have a choice. There you go being all funny again. I must have missed your special on Comedy Central last weekend.

Author: Point taken.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dogs Gone Wild vol. 1

There is something so disturbing about watching a dogfight. It is a display of violence so pure, so primal - manifested in a blur of flashing teeth, claws and fur. Rarely will you see anything like it, and it's not likely that you'd want to observe it more than once unless you match the personality profile of a serial killer.

For animal lovers, it's hard to watch two dogs try to kill each other. The urge to intervene is too strong, so we jump in like fools and become part of the melee. In our attempt at damage control we risk it all to stop these nutty furry critters from racking up vet bills that will have us eating Ramen noodles for two years. While I would not advocate standing back and letting things take their course, I would recommend that you not use my method to break up a dogfight. I am certain that the old tried and true method of dumping or spraying water on the offending parties could be employed with equal effect and reduced risk to self.

Today's story goes a little something like this.....

It's Monday, and it's hot. The kind of hot that makes you angry. On this particular day there are four dogs with us: two that are ours, two that we are dogsitting. We'll call our guests dog A and dog B. All of us, humans and dogs alike, are feeling the heat a little too much. As we walk all four dogs through the field in front of our house, the dogs make a beeline toward the place that we (author and Mrs. author) despise: the mudstream. This mudstream is the bane of our existence, a cattail lined abomination that borders our property and resembles a mixture of tar and primordial ooze. On hot days, the dogs find that it suits them to run, jump and lay in this muck in order to enjoy the cooling benefit that it provides. Far too often we curse them as they wander back to us on a path they have worn through the cattails, wearing "mud suits" that smell like a peanut butter and crabcake sandwich left in a hot car for about three weeks.

Once they have taken the plunge in this delightful mudstream, we have no choice but to take them around the house to the back yard. Here they get to swim in a small pond and chase sticks, and rinse off the mudstream stink. But on this particular day, Mr. and Mrs. author notice that weeks of high heat and humidity have given the pond a chance to brew up a nice batch of algae, with a pinch of pollen thrown in for good measure. It occurs to Mr. and Mrs. author that dogs immersed in this substance will not smell much better than those who have plunged in to the dreaded mudstream. Since Mr. and Mrs. author are aware that the resident dogs have used this mudstream to convert ten minute walks to thirty minute romps, they decide to avoid the pond and beat the dogs at their own game; the trusty garden hose will be put to use.

At this point we devise a plan to tie the dogs (one at a time) to the basketball post at the end of the court and spray them off. Fortunately Nigel did not have the option to jump in the mudstream, so Mrs. author has put him inside and returned to help me with cleanup. I begin to hose Sola down, and ten feet away from me things get interesting. It seems that dog A and dog B are giving each other some attitude, growling and baring teeth at each other for no apparent reason. Just as I am about to call a personal foul the dogs lunge at each other and engage in battle. And it is immediately apparent that they mean business. Both silly humans grab part of each dog and pull, but dog A and dog B continue to chew on each other with reckless abandon. In the struggle that ensues, both Mr. and Mrs. author are bitten and bruised before the fighters are separated and whisked away to private quarters.

A quick inspection makes it clear that Mr. author will require a visit to the emergency room, a visit that will eventually last eight hours (and would require another lengthy post to describe).

The quick recap...

Money earned for dogsitting: $200
Food and treats for said dogs: $25
Lost wages from time off from work due to injury: $ To be determined
Emergency room visit, amputation of upper third of pinkie finger: $2,300
Picking up your painkillers and having your pharmacist remind you that you could have used the garden hose to spray and separate fighting dogs: Priceless

Author, one ounce lighter: