a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: July 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A fictional interlude

SUMMARY: Something special today, or maybe just odd.

Here you can pretend that I just turned around from
writing a new story.

James James Morrison’s Mother by Ellen Levy Finch

Copyright 1997 by Ellen Levy Finch

-- appeared in the February 1997 issue of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction magazine, Algis Budrys Ed., the last print edition

Yet do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

                Shakespeare, Sonnet 19

James James / Morrison Morrison / Weatherby George Dupree
Took great / Care of his Mother, / Though he was only three.
James James / Said to his Mother, / "Mother," he said, said he:
"You must never go down to the end of the town, if you don't go down with me."

                A. A. Milne, "Disobedience"

She couldn't find the good bluestone teapot. How she hungered for a simple sit-down tea, with fresh-baked crumpets slathered in strawberry jam, crusts broken open to moist, buttermilky interiors. If the muffin man came by, she could get them, still warm, from under the linen towel on his tray.

But how could she enjoy it all without the bluestone? Earl Grey just wasn’t right coming out of the stubby spout of the dented tin pot. The bluestone's elegance transcended the tinner's by as much as the King's surpassed the muffin man's -- and the sentimental value was stronger, it having been sent by her husband from Paris before he was killed in the War.

Or -- no -- it had been her grandmother's, she thought idly, settling to her knees and peering under the woodbin beside the stove. The stove, its iron walls still holding deep the warm memory of this morning's fire, cooked up a vague image of a grandmotherly woman pouring tea in a house in Cheshire. The image floated through her mind, translucent and occluded by an equally vague image of a man of her own youthful age.

Oh, no, the War was quite over in 1918. She sat up abruptly at the thought, knocking her stylishly bobbed head on the end of the stove's large iron door handle.

Sitting on the floor, rubbing her skull, she looked at the 1923 calendar on the wall and calculated: If JimJim is three, but the husband hasn't been home for at least five years --

She shivered, determinedly stymied a wave of emptiness and nausea, and stood up, steering away from the confusion. The vagaries of her mind distracted and frustrated her, and yet -- and yet --

"Vague vagaries," she murmured to herself, opening the china dresser next to the ice box for the third time at least. She smiled at the feel of the words peeling off her tongue. Something to smile about, anyway.

She peered into the icebox itself; sometimes, after the ice block had melted and before the iceman came, there was extra room for storing things.


She jumped, just a little bit, and turned towards the door. He stood there, arm raised so as to cling to the crystal doorknob. Barely tall enough for his head to reach the stove handle, she noted absently, wondering, lost for a moment, where the child had come from. Then he came into focus, suddenly, as though she viewed him through a seaman's glass, twisting it to bring the boy and her life into convergence.

Her son, of course: James James Morrison Morrison etc. A bit of a fancy, that; there were Jameses on both sides of the family and they couldn't decide which to name him after -- Or perhaps that wasn't the reason at all?

"Mum, what on Earth are you doing?"

"I can't find the teapot," she responded sharply, angry at herself for not knowing him immediately, and at him for knowing her without a blink.

"It isn't anywhere near tea time."

"I can’t find it."

He cocked his little blond head in that precocious manner that she thought she probably hated. "The bluestone?"

"Of course the bluestone. You can see the tin one right here on the stove."

"You planted geraniums in it. It's in the garden by the dovecot." He was talking down to her, she was sure of it. And how could he always manage to do that, given their respective heights?

Still -- dovecot -- yes, a vague recollection -- not a memory exactly, more like a stereopticon with the two sides mismatched, the three-dimensional view distorted and not quite real.

She sank into the chair by the window, hands folded in her lap, gaze fixed on the child. "JimJim, why would I do that?"

Her son shrugged, and for a moment the gesture transformed him into a cuddly, snuffly, warm and ingenuous three-year-old that she could envision loving tenderly and maternally. For only a moment. "A recurring lapse of connection with reality," said James James. "If you don't remember now, then that knowledge is undoubtedly lost to us both forever."

"You should jolly well have stopped me."

"I'm only three," he said.

"Tommyrot." She almost blushed at her own uncouth language. "You always know what's best. You always take care of me. Why not this time?"

"Mother, I advise you to the best of my ability, given that I have only the limited life experiences of my three years." He took a shallow breath through his baby teeth. "However, because you appear to have motivations that are beyond the scope of my experience (and, I sometimes think, beyond the scope of your own), it seems pointless to ask why you are doing the thing or to ask you to stop."

Oh, bother, how she hated his tone. And his sentences were longer than an average three-year-old's entire attention span. "You know how much I like that teapot," she said, knowing somehow that he did know but not remembering how he might have come by that knowledge nor, for that matter, why she would know that he knew. It was all too complicated, which made her even angrier.

"Oh, Mum." He put his little hands on his hips so that his baby-fat arms stuck out all akimbo.

Oh, the uppity Little Lord Fauntleroy! "Don’t use that tone with me." She struggled briefly, desperately, for something to say to take him down a peg, and as if from a memorized chapbook, she drew: "I'm going to have to speak to your papa, you know. When he comes home." No image came to her mind with that; no papa, no home but for the kitchen she stood in. The words were an incantation without context.

JimJim's face, however, melted nearly to tears; his lower lip trembled. He turned and ran from the room, his quick footsteps echoing down the hallway towards the drawing-room -- ah, yes -- his favorite hideaway, she knew suddenly.

Still, his retreat set her quite aback. Talking to papa was not so bad, after all, was it? Something prodded at her memory, something that could have upset him, something she was thinking about earlier when she thumped her head -- no, gone.

She stood up, meaning to go after him and catch his soft tiny self up in her arms and tell him how very much she loved him.

Then in they came, flickery picture-show memories using her mind as their theatre, all at once so that she couldn't distinguish one from the next. Her husband (or perhaps her brother?). The War. The birth of her son -- no, a trip to Buckingham Palace -- no, that wasn't right, either. A tangle of scenes, faces, and churning colors.

The discordance made her so angry. As though childbirth had been reduced to photogravures, as if it hadn't happened to her at all. As if her husband hadn't said good-bye just that morning -- and, confused by the cacophony, she wasn't sure whether he had.

But why couldn't she remember? His face should be as clear and as close as the flowers on the wallpaper -- but it eluded capture. And what was his name?

She took two steps towards the hallway door, angry all over again. It was the boy's fault. As though everything she knew -- ought to know -- somehow escaped her and roosted in his brain.

The room spun about her. She grabbed the doorjamb with one hand, steadying herself, and began banishing the jangling, contentious thoughts from her whirling head, one by one.

Exhausted, finally alone with the silence in the kitchen, she leaned in the doorway, eyes closed. Every time that she tried to think, tried to understand, pain burst into her head like -- like --

She couldn't quite remember what it was like, although she thought she ought.

Thought -- ought -- Words again. Where did they come from? She focussed on the words, because they never disoriented her, always gave her a sense of harmony, symmetry, balance. She turned and slowly walked out the back kitchen door to the garden.

There it sat, nestled among the blue-spiked delphiniums. The broad crinkly leaves of the geranium did look good against the bluestone, although she could see now that it would outgrow the pot in a matter of weeks. If she remembered to water it. Perhaps it would rain.

Kneeling among the colors of springtime, she carefully upended the pot and shook it gently to dislodge the plant. The geranium came out into her waiting palm along with a shower of loose, dark soil, which dusted her forearm and skirt. She had a memory of the scent of the soil, rich and aged and moist; her perspective shifted and she could actually smell the soil now, just as she remembered it from -- from --

She shook her head quickly to disperse the smell and the memory and the empty places in her head. Balancing the geranium's root ball in one hand, she scraped a hole among the peonies large enough to accommodate it. She settled the geranium carefully into its new home, pressed the soil in slightly around it so that the roots would make contact with the new bedding, and brushed the dirt from her hands.

She rose, whisked her hand across her skirt to free it from the dark clinging bits of garden, smearing it instead. She sighed and looked around her. The day was beautiful -- for north of London it was an extraordinary day. An excellent day for sitting in the garden, perhaps reading some poetry; something to shake away the dark clinging bits of her mind's overgrown weed patch.

She couldn't very well go downtown, for example, not by herself. She glanced quickly at the house, guilty at even thinking it. JimJim would insist on going with her. It was a pattern engraved in her soul, like the sun's morning ascension and evening subsidence, though she could not recall from memory any single sunrise, nor sunset, nor trip to the end of town with or without her progeny in attendance. Anger again: just a little ride into town without him now and again, visit around a bit, perhaps pop in to Harrods, and still be back for tea. He would never notice.

But never mind that; she didn't wish to invite the jumbly whirly mismatched thoughts in again. A spot of poetry in the sunshine was just the thing.

As she walked into the parlor to find a book, she tried to remember what her son had been like as a two-year-old, but the memories remained teasingly elusive.

Her bookcase, like her portfolio of remembrances, sat nearly empty; a single book bound in pale red calfskin perched on the shelf, basking in its own significance. How very queer, she thought. It seemed that there should be more books, should there not? Her mind flooded, fleetingly, with a veritable wall of books, each like a softly colored stone, all held together with mortar of dust and cobwebs.

Then the only cobwebs remaining were those clinging tightly to the empty vaults of her past.

She snatched the lone book quickly from the shelf, lest it too should vanish into the mists of her mind. Clasping it against her chest with both hands, she tiptoed back out into the garden, shutting the door ever so gently behind her. She wandered past the earth-spattered teapot where it sat askew beneath the dovecot and settled onto the settee near the garden gate by the lane.

Settle, settee -- she smiled to herself and placed the book on her lap. The pages fell open to Longfellow, and she read.

"The Village Blacksmith" appealed to her today. She lingered among the gentle rhythm of its phrases; nothing complicated, nothing to struggle with. De-dee, de-dee, de-dee, de-dee; a simple beat, simple words, simple images for a plain man with an uncomplicated life.

How she envied him his simplicity. Toiling, -- rejoicing, -- sorrowing, Onward through life he goes. All of these feelings, she realized with a pang, were foreign to her. She couldn't recall having experienced any of them, not a one. Just confusion, dismay and anger at the confusion, and then confusion again. And only, simply, clearly in her mind, her precocious child, taking care of her as though she were not capable of it herself.

Not for her the blacksmith's rejoicing as he sits among his boys in the church and thinks of his departed wife's voice, singing in his mind's ear. She had no such memory to cling to; she had no idea whether she had a husband -- living or dead -- now, or yesterday, or five years before.

What did the blacksmith think about when he thought about his past? She tried envisioning a blacksmith's life; failed; chided the poet for his failure to complete her picture of the man. It had seemed so evocative, at first; she had seen so clearly the village square, the cool shade of the chestnut tree harboring the heat and the raging flame of the forge.

But now the omissions began to pick at her. Week in, week out, from morn till night, he stands there. And then on Sunday he goes to church. Did he have a life, really, other than the hammer and the anvil and the fever of the blasting forge? The story was so incomplete, now that she thought about it.

Did he have a life before the poem? A childhood? A mother and father? Did he go to school, have friends, dance, sing? How did the food get on the table if he spent all day working the bellows? Was he putting a little aside for his future? For his children's education?

Even as she realized how important it had abruptly become for her to know the details, she knew that her obsession was strange and unhealthy. Still, she wanted to know; the importance bruised her heart, tangled her nerves, shattered the sunshine around her.

Perhaps because her own life had so many holes in it -- indeed, seemed one large hole -- she couldn't abide the same omissions in another's life? Fictional or not, the smithy had seemed as real to her as the firmness of the settee's wooden seat beneath her and the tingling of the sunshine dappling her skin.

There is nothing for him there, nothing! but for the swinging of his heavy sledge, week in, week out, through all eternity. She found herself resenting how the poet had created this simple, limiting scene and then enslaved the blacksmith with his words, trapping him forever in an endlessly repeating scenario.

Well, now, she had intended to sit out here to relax, not to become inflamed again. She scrunched her shoulders up, then relaxed them slowly, rolling her head gently with eyes closed. It would be so refreshing to think about something that had substance; her life had so little thereness in it.

But the blacksmith's quandary tasked her.

Maybe the smith experienced something different every time someone different read the poem! She imagined his late wife as a plump, genial dark-haired peasant who smelled insistently of camphor. Did the blacksmith remember her the same way? Would some other Longfellow devotee full of whimsical romance picture the woman as an angular Aryan with a limp and a walleye? What then, if both readers consumed the poem at the same moment, though miles apart? Would the poor befuddled smith have to sort out which memory was the real one? And which was real?

She shuddered; what would that be like, memories all jumbled up, never making sense, never remembering the same thing the same way twice? Everything in the past foggy; your entire life changing its texture, its substance, its flavour with the personal experiences of readers whom you never see and never know exist.

The concept was rather a bother, she thought. (Rather a bother -- how curious that so many things rhymed in her head, even now!) The concept crept down her spine and along her arms, raising the little hairs it found there, and she shivered.

Poetry -- no, not today, she decided abruptly, her mind suddenly clear and free. She hesitated. Hadn't there been something, just a moment ago, something eating at her ragged edges? She couldn't quite recall just what. She thought for a moment -- but, no, it was gone, whatever the thought.

Maybe she truly did need a change of scene. Maybe, just maybe, she needed to get away from the oppression of her son's care and concern. She longed to take him up in her arms and give him the deepest, warmest, cuddliest hug that a three-year-old could ever want, but it seemed impossible at the moment.

Yes, that was it. She would go downtown, alone, and gather herself about her. She would dress up nicely, make herself feel different and special. That should lift her spirits, indeed.

She set the book aside, barely aware that she did so, and rose from the bench. Her mind made up, she moved resolutely towards the house, banishing the tiny nagging feeling that before, somewhere, sometime, she had had just this same idea.

James James / Morrison's Mother / Put on a golden gown,
James James / Morrison's Mother / Drove to the end of town.
James James / Morrison's Mother / Said to herself, said she:
"I can get right down to the end of the town and be back in time for tea."

                    A. A. Milne, "Disobedience"


Author's note: I wrote this a couple of years before it was published, so some time before Clarion. If I were to rewrite it now (which I won't), I'd change it quite a bit. FWIW. On the other hand, it's much better than my early fiction writing in the late '70s and '80s.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Photo #P1010003

SUMMARY: A rousing round of randomness

So, here's the thing. Ya take a lot of photos, the camera numbers them for you, but the camera has only a certain number of digits, say, up to 9999, so eventually, after 9999 photos, it rolls back around to 0001 again. But some cameras have wayyyyyy many more digits.

Sometimes, when I search for a certain photo number, the variety of photos that appear intrigues me.  So, just because-- here are my photos numbered P1010003.

(It's a single collage this time instead of each file individually. See the text below the collage.)

I've done this before:
These are random, hence quality is, too.

Left to right from the top:

  1. April 2008: Haute Dawgs' USDAA agility trial at Dixon. Friends with his and hers Segways let us all try them. Learning curve, very fast on a wide-open lawn, and oh so cool!
    We had fun fun fun till our buddies took the Segway away.
    Third day of a 4-day trial. I did not sign up for the fourth; that is too too too much agility. Thirty runs over just 3 days. Tika completed her ADCH-Bronze. (This is a Big Thing.)
  2. Feb 2008: Sun sets on another agility weekend. Heading home from VAST's Turlock USDAA trial. Another 18 runs between the 2 dogs over 2 days. Plus walkthroughs of probably 10 minutes each. Lots of pottying and warming up and cooling down and volunteering. Tired, always tired physically.
    Driving west into the sunset. Better than driving west into the blinding sun above the horizon, an all-too familiar nemesis.
  3. Feb 2007: Commuting to work in essentially stopped traffic. Inch, stop. Inch, stop. How often have I been in this exact traffic jam?! Some  places are just bottlenecks. --we have lots of them. But the fog on the coastal mountains is a nice backdrop.
  4. Feb 2017: Restaurant dessert at the family's dinner (about 15 of us) after Mom's (and Dads') Memorial. The Executor held the keys to the Estate pocket book. Seemed like this would be a good use of funds, so no holds barred. Emotions must be tended to.
     -- The Executor.
  5. Nov 2009: Stevens Creek Reservoir (not "Steven's").  Water level is low-ish, not surprising after the long dry summer months. Rain might have started in Sept but more likely Oct.
    Short hike up the hill to Picchetti Ranch Reserve for the view with a former work colleague friend.
  6. Aug 2009: Wearing a glow bracelet in my car. Why? Where is this? Why did I have one at all?  These photos are with photos from a late afternoon hike in the hills with the dogs at Santa Teresa Park. Which makes no sense. This appears to be one of the folders in which for some reason dates and times are hosed. And/or photo numbers. Or they were hosed in the camera and I didn't notice.  The *numbering* would fit there, but I can find no info anywhere on glow bracelets in the car, clearly at night. Not in my blog or my other photos.  Sadly this might remain a mystery.
  7. June 2009: Used to take the dogs with me when I'd drop the car off for maintenance, then we'd go for a long walk instead of waiting in the facility's inevitably stark waiting room. This time they weren't done with the oil change when we got back, so we waited in the waiting room together. No idea whether they minded. Didn't care. Was hot outside, nowhere to sit, and the car wasn't ready. And the Merle Girls were well-behaved.
  8. May 2008: Hiking with the Wednesday Sierra [Club] Singles. After work, all year round. This day, to the top of Black Mountain in the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve.
    We'd meet after work, drive 20-30-minute drive up from the Valley nearly to Skyline Rd. (twisty turny winding road up about 2000 feet). We'd have to be out of the parking lot by half hour after sunset.

    So we'd have to hustle to the top of Black Mountain from the parking lot, admire the view briefly, maybe have time for a snack if we were lucky, and hustle back down. No time to sit and relax! About 3 miles one way, gaining 800 feet (and 3 miles/800 feet back down again), but many sections are exhaustingly steep. So there's the crew, there's the view, how do you do!
    OK, it's not a view, just us and the mountaintop and clouds. Trust me, views are lovely.
    Back when I could do that kind of hike.

    Because I'm nice, here's the actual view that day of the south Bay Area and mountains to the east. (In the other direction are ridges of forest and clouds and, on a good day, a view of the Pacific.)
Why so many photos with the same number within those 2 years and none after? Something odd happened. As you can tell from the number of digits, it should've kept going up. And, in fact, at some point it did, because here in 2020Land, that camera is at P1130988.

Added photos to an early COVID post

SUMMARY: In case you feel up to it.

This post: COVID-19 (the virus formerly known as Novel Coronavirus) - March 13.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Garages: Not just for breakfast any more

SUMMARY: Well, that title makes no sense...
More copied from Facebook, my [long] comment on a friend successfully cleaning up their garage.

I love having a garage that I can park in. Get in and out of the car during rainy weather without getting wet. And it protects the car from the elements. And fewer worries about breakins/thefts. And can put the dogs into and out of the car without worrying about leashes or distractions. Heaven! One of the biggest bonuses, IMHO.

Not all garages offer all the benefits, however.

The two apartments I rented before becoming a homeowner

First one: Just a parking lot. No benefits at all. In the rain, run down the long walkway and up the stairs. (No dogs, so not an issue there.)

Second one: Enclosed (2 walls and ceiling) detached carport. Could get into and out of the car in the rain and take time getting things into and out of the car, but then would have to run down the driveway in the rain, carrying whatever you had.  Sometimes instead I used an open parking spot directly across from my door to shorten the trip. Still no dogs.

My first house (townhouse)

An open  carport. Ugh--detached from the house, so still rain was an issue, but it was just a few steps in the rain, unlock my private door in the fence to my patio and unlock the uncovered door into the house, so a quick trip. But wet. Had a dog by then, she'd just follow me (advantage of doing a lot of stuff with the dog from 6 weeks old).

This is a current photo. That car is parked in what I think was my spot.
My door through the fence was where the light-colored wood is, above the right side of my rear-view mirror.
From inside my back (sliding) door, looking at the door thru the fence.
(It's messy because I had just spent the morning putting in new sod.)

My second house 

A one-car attached garage in which previous owners added the living room fireplace. If we had nothing else in the garage, we could squeeze one car in, but we'd have to inhale deeply to be sure it didn't scrape. At least, if we parked there, we'd be out of the rain and dogs could get into the car with no worries.

But, mostly, then, we used it for storage. So across a short sidewalk to the covered front door. Also then could open the front garage door and carry things into the house through the garage.  The husky was the dog we'd have to worry about getting safely into the car, the other dog was fine.

Wow. I hope I have better photos of the house (and garage) somewhere.
This is all I seem to have scanned in so far.
See the chimney coming out of the roof? Who does that?!

Next house

Detached garage (Still running through the rain) with no door for several years.

We'd try to use it for parking, but the challenge was opening the big wrought-iron gate, and if the dogs were loose in the yard, we'd first have to put them away somewhere, open the gate, drive in, close the gate, let the dogs out. So we'd often park outside the gate, which left the whole driveway and garage as places to play, have BBQ or party guests, do workshop things and, yes, just toss things on the floor to store instead of putting them properly on the shelves.

But then we'd put things away and park in the garage again for a while.

Rental between houses for most of a year

Huge detached 3-car garage, although the path from the side of the garage to the house was a small patio.

HOWEVER--the owner stored a lot of his stuff in a good part of the garage, and I stored all my stuff from the move in the other side, waiting to find a new place.

So, park in the driveway, unlock the gate, across the patio, unlock the uncovered door while standing in the rain... 
And dogs had to be managed. *Mostly* they were eager to go places, so if I had the car doors open, when I opened the gate, they'd hop in.

This astonished the neighbor. "How do you get them to do that?!"  I asked, do you ever take them anywhere other than to the vet?... No? Yeah, well, that's your problem.

The Crappy Rental and its garage.
It would astonish you to discover that the house roof leaked like a sieve. 

The landlord's side of the garage ... 
You can just see Jake behind the tire.
I wouldn't let them loose in here unsupervised.
Um. Now I'm thinking it's the basement? Might have mislabeled photo.
(Worrisome that one can't tell the difference. Except I think the basement was much lower and had a partial dirt floor?)
Time to go back to the photo albums...

Current house

A spacious attached 2-car garage. Until three years ago, both sides were clear enough for cars, and I've parked mine there for all of the last 19 years but the first few months while unpacking from the move. Then, when the renters weren't using the other side, I started putting things there "temporarily", and clearing them out, and putting more in, and clearing them out--but and now there's a lot of temporary stuff that needs to be processed in one way or another.  

But still plenty of room to park MUTT MVR. AND no running through the rain! AND easy to put the dogs into or out of the car.

I really really want another one like this (attached) when next I move. High priority!

(I know I have photos--somewhere--but apparently not labeled. So maybe tomorrow I'll try for an appropriate shot.)

Monday, July 13, 2020

Maybe I Should Try Not Having A Dog

SUMMARY: Whenever Zoroo departs for good.
Backfill: date

I noted in yesterday's post:
Maybe I should try having an empty house, though [after Zorro is gone]. Maybe.

Have had at least one dog since shortly after I moved out from parents' to my own place.
Over 40 years. (Plus the family dog before that.)
Maybe it's time.

I don't miss my pups when I'm away from them.
I mean--well, yes, I do, but more like, wish I could snuggle with one right now.
Or, this situation is uncomfortable and I wish I had a dog with me.
So, bits and pieces.

But mostly I love the freedom to go where I want, when I want, and not worry about supplies or whether dogs are allowed or whether it would be challenging or worrisome for me to have them with me.
16 days I was gone in 2018, staying at hotels or friends' places, and I loved it. Me and my camera. Who is a much less demanding companion. (In most ways, anyway.)

I have said it--maybe time for no dogs--multiple times in my life--
Like, after Amber died.     (But then, eventually, Remington came home, making 2 again.)
Like, as Jake and Remington were aging.      (But then,  Tika came home, making 3.)
Like, as Tika and Boost were aging.      (But then, Chip came home, making 3.)

Maybe it's time to be free to travel anywhere in the world for any length of time and not worry about dogsitters. Or dog hair everywhere. Or having to ensure that they get the mental and physical exercise they need. Or the fun and love they need.

Devoting I don't know how much space in the house to them--dog beds everywhere, multiple shelves in various closets or cabinets filled with assorted gear and toys. Crates often in multiple places. Water bowls in various places. All of that. Crates and gear in my car and all over the garage.

I'm scared to actually add up how much space dog paraphernalia and ephemera consume.

And the yard--at least the current one--all that agility gear and all those limitations on landscaping so that I could do some real practice with the beasts. Not that I do much any more.

It's always something I think about after one of mine has died. Sometimes think more, sometimes think less about it.

So, just, not making a decision now. How long should I give my wound to heal? A month (It has been nearly 4 weeks already, hard to believe)? Two months? Four? Wait until I'm competing with Zorro? Will I ever actually do that?

What kind of dog would I want--another that I "intend to do agility with", as Chip and Zorro were?  A mellow dog? Must be smart, I think, and eager to learn.

But, aye, there's the rub: Those qualifications come right back around to "ensure that they get the mental and physical exercise they need. Or the fun and love they need." 

Enough on that for now.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Do not get another dog right now

SUMMARY: Don't. Just don't.

I got Zorro when it was just me and Chip not long after Tika and Boost died that spring

Even though I was adoring getting to know Chip better, I fell in love with Zorro's face (it was not like any of my prior dogs, but that wasn't it--), and I brought him home, and he sucked up so much of my attention, and I have thought often that it was an emotional mistake. I'm trying not to make that same mistake again.

But--the fear creeps in. The same fear that I first noticed 30 years ago,  two years after Amber died.

Old Amber

For those two years, I thought I was done with dogs. Heartache, exhausting, dust and mud and dirt and dog hair everywhere. But as my husky aged and declined--she was 14 already (who knew she'd live to 17!?). And then the fear--
Jim was inclined to get a dog from the shelter or an animal rescue place again rather than to find a puppy in the paper. (If we HAD to get a dog; he was pretty sure Sheba wouldn't be happy about it and maybe we should wait til Sheba wasn't around any more.) 
Told Jim that when we got back from Hawaii it would be time for ME to have another dog because i couldn't bear to have an empty house when Sheba goes to the great goodie cabinet in the sky. 

But: I couldn't bear to have an empty house.
What if something happens to Zorro.
I hadn't expected Boost to die.
Maybe I should try having an empty house, though. Maybe.
Have had at least one dog since shortly after I moved out from parents' to my own place.
Over 40 years. (Plus the family dog before that.)
Maybe it's time.

Or, I could rescue a senior dog, one that's hard to adopt out. Or I could foster.
Could my heart stand either, when they'd leave so soon?


I miss Chip so much. His laughter. His affection. His fun.
And do not miss his flaws.

And Zorro seems like a better dog with Chip gone. Most of the time.

Still--I miss him so much.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Backfilling the last 4 weeks

SUMMARY: Capturing from when things were normal, through Chip's demise, to today.

Updated July 12 with links to posts between June 1 and July 3. In REVERSE ORDER (Oldest at the bottom).

Posted everything under their original Facebook posting dates and times--From June 10 through yesterday. They all have a red text tag indicating this. In some cases, I added more text or photos.

Just letting you know in case you want to revisit any of it, which Facebook makes hard.


You can just expand 2020 in the right sidebar, then click on June to read all of those, then click on july to read all of those.  Or for June 1-July 3:

Here are the ones primarily about Chip or medical things:
Here are the ones not primarily about  Chip:

Chip Photo Gallery

SUMMARY: Copied off Facebook

Backfill: Photos from FB post of June 17th.

I just copied the photos that I uploaded to Facebook for Chip's obituary on June 17. And put those Facebook photo copies onto my SmugMug photo site where they're easier to find, in Chip Photos for His Obituary.

Sadly, coming from FB, the photos retain zero info about when or where they were taken or what they were about. And not necessarily the same resolution.

And this is all because I couldn't be bothered (had a lot more on my mind), while I was finding them and posting them to facebook, to track where the original files are in my photo annals. 

You likely don't care about that.

I might or might not add captions sometime.

(Also adding this photo link to Goodbye Mr. Chip June 17th.)

Erasing 2

SUMMARY: Goodbye Chip part 2 -- what I'm doing, what needs to be done, quandaries, anger, sleep...
Update: Added some photos July 5. Will probably add more later.
Backfill: Written June 17 -19; posted July 3.

Written June 17-19 while wandering helplessly around the house and yard and crying.

The thoughts are the originals.  After the fact--early July--I realized that I probably had photos to match a lot of these, so started adding. So hard to go over this again. But I'd rather do it while he's fresh in my mind.

June 17

Don’t want to be reminded of the absence of a dog at every turn in every room. My initial reaction this morning was to load Zorro up into the car with me and go away somewhere for four days. Then I started realizing that, if I did that, I would be coming back to all the memories still right in front of me. It’s not that I want to erase him. I just want to reduce what I see.

So things to work on today:

Package and label the uncooked chicken that I bought for him. And put in the freezer. Package and label the cooked chicken that I made for him and put into the freezer. Wash all the pots and pans that I used to cook for him: rice (which he decided he liked for one meal only, and the rest I finally tossed), pasta (which he didn’t like at all by the time I offered it to him) (and which I will try to remember to feed to the other dog is a bonus in the next day or so). And to cook two different batches of chicken. Wash them all and put them away.

Liked rice with chicken for one meal the previous night.
This morning, likes only chicken.
This evening, he won't even eat the chicken if it has touched the rice.

Remove and wash the cover on the dog bed that I bought for him for his sixth birthday then put it back on its Styrofoam base and hide it somewhere. It’s a big bed so this will be a challenge. I just can’t look at it right now.

Pick up all the toys that I either got especially for him or that were his favorites. Hide the ones that are still in good condition. For a while. Hide the ones that were of interest only to him that were his favorites and that he would always bring me. I don’t know why, but I’m going to have trouble letting go. Maybe I can bring myself to toss the ones that are in not good condition but that I saved because he also liked those.

His most favorites.  Interestingly, of all the zillions of toys in this house, Braided Monkey and the RopeBone came  with him from his old home and are still among his top favorites--except that the 2 items next to Purple Hippo are his absolute favorites, and they're actually remnants from larger toys!

Pick up the two different kinds of bowls that I used for his food (see photo above), wash them, stash them in the cabinet in the garage.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the two elevated beds in the kitchen. For one dog, I don’t think that I need two, except that, depending on whether they want to be quiet and out-of-the-way, or if I’m eating, then they want to be under the table, but if they’re watching the yard, they might be wanting the one by the door. Anyway, I’m not sure where I would put the extra bed, though its legs do come off.

Bed under the kitchen table.

There are two crates in my bedroom. The one that I think I’ll keep there is the one that Chip liked and most of the time slept in. So I have to decide… I don’t know, Zorro has slept in that one as well from time to time when Chip decided he wanted the smaller one for some weird reason. So maybe I’ll take Chip's bedding out of the big one, move Zorro's bedding in from the smaller one, and put away the smaller one.

Crates in the bedroom.
Dogs are blurry because, as you can see from Zorro being halfway in the air,
they are playing a wild game of chase in and out and roundabout.  January 2020.

Also in my bedroom, in the back corner of the closet, is a dog camp bed (insulated flat one-layer sleeping bag or, like a flat down comforter) that I put back there after Chip's escape from the fireworks that first July, because that’s where he hid for a while before I came home and found him missing. (I know because the bed was soaked with what I think was panting saliva.) So I’ve left it there, and he has used it from time to time when he’s scared of something, or sometimes, I don’t know, maybe he just wanted to be away from Zorro. I’m not sure how easily that cleans, but I have to figure it out and put that away.  ... ...  He spent a lot of his last night curled up there in that corner, with his back to the door; when I got up in the morning, he didn't move and I thought he was already dead.

I know that I have a photo of him  hiding on the bed in the closet, but can't find it.
Meanwhile, there's the puffy tan camping bed in the back corner of the closet.

I need to sweep and vacuum like crazy to get all the pale dog hair out of everything. I need to change the sheets on my bed today because they’re covered with Chip's dog fur.

Call the vet's office and get the expiration dates for the medications that they gave me the day before he died. So I can stash them somewhere just in case they might be needed for someone else, although I am putting out messages to see whether anyone local wants them instead.

Try to avoid thinking too hard about the new dog toys that I just bought two of, two weeks ago. Maybe put one away in a closet.

I'll replace with photo of the actual 2 maybe tomorrow.

I don’t need two crates in the car. Need to take one out, find some place to put it, maybe it’s time to get rid of some of the other soft crates that I’m not using that aren’t in the best condition that I haven’t gotten rid of because, for example, the green one that Chip ripped a hole in the first time I used it at an agility trial, was brand new when he did that. And then there’s the big really ancient teal and purple one that Remington used that I loved, and I’ve not been able to get anything in those color combinations ever since, so that’s a huge souvenir that I really probably don’t need to keep, as part of it is ripped, also, and I would have to have it repaired, and then what: store them all again? I could use the space.

I need to clear out some of the extra leashes from my front hall, and the second harness.

I need to get rid of some of the extra tunnels that I got just last year from a couple of friends specifically to set up a bigger tunnel path throughout the yard, because he loved the tunnels so much and I wanted to give him some variety. I think I have four now that are in shape that someone could use in the backyard, but would need replacing in a year or two anyway.
Zorro doesn’t need six tunnels, I don’t need six tunnels. So I need to evaluate the ones that are in the worst shape to decide which to keep.

Another Chip tunnel game, August 2017

Another photo I remember taking--all the tunnels in the yard--that I am now not finding. Will have to retake.

June 18

I had a hard enough time this morning when I went out to use the hose sprayer to water some plants. He was there every time I wanted to do that the last six years and now he’s not going be there I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get over that. I certainly can’t get rid of my hoses.

Is this *really* the only photo I ever took of him trying to grab the spray or hose?
When it was almost a daily occurrence for 6 years?
Now I am very sad.

The thunder shirt that I bought for him finally last year and intended to train him to use it when we were comfortable and relaxed, and never did, so now I will never be able to verify whether it helps with thundering and fireworks. The one time I put it on him before the evening started, it made no difference whatsoever.

Thundershirt first arrives. March 2019.

It was hard enough going outside this morning, because he would always go to the same spot in the yard to have his morning poop. Every day. First thing. And he wasn’t there.

March 1
March 5
March 9
Is it rude that I started taking photos of him doing that?
I'm glad that I took some-- back in March-- but kept forgetting to have a camera in hand
as he dashed out first thing, and then I'd miss the shot.  So I gave up after 3 times.

And then picking up the yard and there was no poop for two dogs just one. I can’t do anything about that either.

Picking up the pieces of half-eaten paper from under and behind things where they fell--Chip was, for some unknown reason, fond of eating paper. Later on, he'd sometimes bring it to me after he had chewed off only a corner and drop it at my feet like he would a toy, after I started giving him treat "Trade"s for them. It did teach me to pick up papers from the floor as soon as the fell or I dropped them if they were important. If nothing else were around, he might pull one off the pile to be shredded or out of the paper recycling bin. 

Found this under one of the dog beds after he died.

Piles of toys in my bedroom and at the top of the stairs (and often at the bottom of, or on, the stairs): Chip almost always carried a toy with him when he thought I was heading upstairs for a nap or for the night. Might drop it on the top landing, or just inside my bedroom door. Sometimes when going downstairs after a nap or first thing in the morning, he'd grab one and carry it down with him.

[Another heartache--I can't find any photos of these toy piles!
Surely I'd have taken some--wouldn't I have??]

 Sometimes when I was busy in the bedroom (dressing, cleaning, what-not), he'd select one of the toys and push it against the ground with his mouth while chewing on it, trying to tempt me to play (and/or to find a possible squeaker). Or drop it at my feet to point out that I needed to stop being dull and play with a dog.

He was so very gentle with toys on most occasions. If I gave him and Zorro identical new toys, Zorro would squeak away at it enthusiastically, while Chip would push slowly at it with his nose, or bite it gently and slowly, and when no noise came out, he'd stare at Zorro as if to wonder why Chip always got the defective one. If I picked it up and squeaked it, his whole face would perk up, eyes wide, and then he'd try again, sometimes more forcefully and sometimes not.

When, this past winter, I finally discovered a toy that was of the size he likes and squeaked very easily, i searched for it online and in April ordered a whole box of them. A whole box. Set out 2 so far. And there most of them still sit, and will continue to sit, as my plan was to dole them out as each died. Zorro's not much into small toys, but he'd love to squeak these a little and then tear their ears and legs off and that would be the immediate end to them. I just can't do that.

Just his size -- Original Li'l red dog toy that I now have a box full of new ones. January 2020.

In mid-March, I bought a beautiful brand new, expensive, red and silver name tag for his collar to replace the one where the lettering was wearing out. Its ring was difficult to work with, so I set it on the table for later. As too often happens, I didn't get back to it. Last Friday or Saturday when I trimmed their toenails, I did wipe down his old tag to clear the dirt and make sure it really needed replacing. I pulled the new tag out of the box on the table, and then he started not looking that healthy, and then -- so there it sits.

June 19

His hair is collected on the upholstered backs and the sides of the seats of all of my dining chairs where he rubbed against them going past. I have to get that all off, too. Zorro wasn't quite that tall.

Only one dog’s poop in the yard. Small amounts of poop in the poop bin. Just silly stuff.

Do I leave two crates in the car for a few trips for Zorro? Will it matter to him? I’m moving him into the crate that Chip used to be in. On Chip’s side of the car. He seemed unperturbed when I’ve done that yesterday.

Likewise, do I leave two crates in the bedroom for a while, just put him into the one that Chip used to have for a few more days? I was going to just leave the small collapsible crate up instead of the larger soft crate, because that’s what Boost used her whole life., And that’s where Zorro has slept most of the time when I’ve used the crates. And I think she was a couple inches taller at the shoulder than he is, but he is much more upright than she was, So he can’t stand up completely straight without pushing against the top, which does get very easily, but still…

It has been very hot the last couple of days, so even though I want to get more done, I get very hot and thirsty very quickly, just from, say, sweeping the kitchen and hall. Plus I have to stop and collect myself. Dictating or even writing is very hard about this.

The night he died, I thought I would never get to sleep. But then, somehow, I did, early in the morning, and then slept well over six hours, which is unusual for me. And I don’t remember waking at all during that time.

Last night it wasn’t quite as dramatic; I woke groggily a couple of times to use the restroom, but fell right back asleep. It did take me a long time to fall asleep, though. I read for a while, turned out the light, wept often on for a while, then turned the light back on and read some more. At some point I fell asleep and turned out the light, because when I did wake up, the light was off, and the book was still in the bed with me.

Fitbit shows I slept 6 1/2 hours Wednesday night (the day he died) and 5 1/2 last night. Also shows that Wednesday night, the first four hours were pretty ragged sleep, and then fairly solid after that. And last night, it was kind of up and down and up and down.

Chip has been blowing his coat like crazy. Maybe I notice it more because I rub and pet him more than I do the other dog, so I see it coming out everywhere in clouds. I have been threatening to come them both for a couple of weeks now, and yet never did. Around four today, I did a bunch of combing on Zorro. He’s also blowing his coat. But Chip liked the process; Zorro does it for the treats and gets bored quickly.

At least I did finally get around to trimming their toenails on Sunday. Before I had a clue.

I’m just so angry as well as heartbroken. It just shouldn’t keep happening. I don’t know how to stop it. I do donate a lot to Morris Animal Foundation cancer funds, maybe more than I should sometimes, but this is just awful.

Some people say to give your dog an ultrasound at nine, but Chip's birthday was only a couple weeks ago. And it wouldn’t have helped by then. At Boost's ninth birthday probably nothing would’ve shown; hard to know, of course whether she’d been suffering for well over a year, but it seems unlikely. Unless you’re going to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars a year for tests for each of your dogs, I don’t see how that helps.

I have been busily washing all of Chip's bedding and then suddenly realized that maybe Zorro would want some of his scent still around. Cried for a while about that, but hadn't washed all of the bedding in the kitchen yet so I'm leaving that for some time later. How long is enough? I have no idea.

6:09 PM

I just saw that San Jose had a 3.4 earthquake Wednesday morning at 10:35 AM. That was me sitting with the vet and the internal hit that was my world falling apart again fuck