Archive for June, 2015

Capitalist Dog

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

I grew up in a capitalist household. My Dad was a small business owner, and worked long and hard hours. Around the dinner table, the stories that made his eyes shine had to do with him making a good deal. He’d use his connections so buy something “worth the money,” as he’d say, and then sell it dear. He was a great networker before networking was even a thing.

Franco has always been an itchy dog. You can get his back legs to start pumping by scratching his chest, back, or belly. We’ve talked to the vet about this, and it seems his itchiness isn’t bad enough to warrant the potential side effects of the medication available. His itchiness recently increased on his back to the point we took him in, and learned he had a staph infection that required a course of antibiotics. He gets 2 pills twice a day.

For the first couple of weeks, this treat was easy to get him to take. I’d take a little canned wet dog food, wrap it around the two pills, and hand it to him, and he’d scarf it down. For variety, sometimes I’d instead wrap the pills in peanut butter or squirt some aerosol cheese on it. The past couple of days, however, Franco’s capitalist instincts have started to kick in.

The logic, which I can read like a book by looking in his eyes, goes something like this: “He really wants me to eat this stuff. I like it a lot, but if I hold out, I might get something I like even better.” So suddenly when medicine time came, the canned dog food ball was sniffed at, ignored, and Franco would walk away a short distance, lay down, looked up at me as if to say, “What else you got?”

Now I can yell, grind my teeth, jump up and down, but none of that matters. Franco looks on with the confidence of a capitalist that knows when he holds all the cards. This morning, he refused a hybrid, which was canned dog food, aerosol cheese and peanut butter. I played all my cards, he sniffed, and lay down. Alice was on her way out the door as Franco and I were discussing this, and she suggested tuna. So I opened a can while muttering, wrapped the pills in some fresh tuna, put the concoction under his nose, and he scarfed it up like the champion he is. I swear to you that he looked at me after this morning’s dose as if to day, “don’t get cocky… we have 4 more weeks of this stuff to take, and I have an excellent memory. Tonight’s pill taking is still ahead of us. I’ll keep you posted.

Smart Dog

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

frankI’ve heard it said that the most recent and largest expansion of the human brain is the part that helps us get along in groups. And anyone that has been to school, or been out in the workplace knows how complicated this web of interactions can be. Clearly, those that are the best at navigating this rough social terrain are the most successful among us.

Dogs are social critters too, and sometimes our dog amazes us with his ability to navigate the wind shifts in our family. For example, Franco has the run of the downstairs from the kitchen through the livingroom, and down into the basement. He must NOT, however set a paw on the steps that lead to our addition (we call it the green room), or come upstairs. Ever. And he may not get up on any of the furniture… sort of.

Ever since some friends visited a few years ago with their dog, Franco has sought to bend the green room and furniture rules. Our friend’s dog, who has no such prohibitions at her home, jumped up on the couch while we were visiting. I remember (possibly with some dramatization mixed in) Franco looking at this dog on the couch, then at us, then back at the dog, and waiting for World War III to break out. She was told to get down, and she did, but the life as we know it did not end. This event, we feel, affected Franco profoundly.

We often leave Franco in the house when we make trips of several hours, and when we’d come back, we’d sometimes see a suspicious dog shaped bump on the formerly pristine couch. I’d look quizzically at Franco and telepathically ask him how this dent might have gotten there. “Beat’s me,” he’d think back to me, staring at me with those big beautiful innocent eyes. This went on for some time.

Occasionally I’d catch him in the act when I’d come downstairs in the night. He’d be asleep in the green room or on the couch, and he’d hear me coming just in time, jump down (THUMP!) and stand there looking at me as nonchalantly as he could. “I think he suspects,” I could hear him thinking. Yes I did. “Shame on you!” I’d say to him. “Yes, shame on me for getting caught,” he’d beam back.

A couple of days ago, we did our annual rental of one of those heavy duty rug shampooers with the upholstery attachment. We did all the rugs and the furniture, including the couch. Alice and I talked it over, knew when we were licked, and put Franco’s blue rug on the couch, centered in the place he almost always would lay. You win Franco.

That same night I came downstairs for something after the house was asleep, and there was Franco, curled up and asleep on his newly delineated territory. This time he did not jump down when I came down. I’m sure he heard me, but didn’t bother acknowledging my approach. He’d used his social brain to figure out that this particular game belonged to him, and he needn’t budge from his rightful throne. You are one smart dog, Franco.

Neighborly Manure

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

banure1In the 70s, Alice and I spent a couple of summers on Mackinac Island running a coffee house. We were supported by local ministries, the idea being to offer an alternative to the bar scene on the island for the young workers there.

I remember a conversation with a woman about where she lived. I can’t remember the town, but knew when she mentioned it that it was a big place.

“Why do you want to live in such a big city?” I asked her.

“Because if the first store I go to doesn’t have what I want, then next one probably will,” she said.

We were both pretty young at the time, but I remember thinking how very differently we thought about the most important qualities of the place you choose to live.

banure2Fast forward 40 years. We live in a rural part of a sparsely populated community. My neighbors have horses, and therefore have lots of manure. We are gardeners with no horses, so are always on the lookout for ways to enrich the garden. Neighbor Dave asked if I’d like some scrapings from his paddock, and I said yes. The stuff was black, rich, and after a couple of tries to pay him, free. He even made me feel as though I was helping him out by taking it.

I used it to enrich some bald spots on the yard. Franco and I took out time and painted the lovely stuff on the worst sections. Next step is to seed, mulch, water, and then wait a week or two for the shy green blush to poke through the straw. By the end of the summer I’ll be mowing it.

Buying things from a store is one way to accumulate the things you need, and I surely do some of this. But for me, on the satisfaction scale, nothing beats an interaction with a friend or neighbor that benefits us both.