Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Santa, Please Bring Us Nylabones"

Please enjoy this cute, dog-centric holiday video, sent to us via the Dog Park listserv from Sara Herlick. Warm wishes from Roma, Muzzy, the Dog Parkist, and yours truly.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Dogged Aughties

I've already seen articles about what to call the first decade of the twenty-first century as it draws to a close, so I don't think a blog entry out of line here. Looking back, of course, I can't believe that it has been ten years since Y2K. Has there ever been such misplaced anxiety? Y2K seems like a school-kid prank in light of what was to follow--terrorist attacks, war, deadly hurricanes and flus, financial calamity, global warming, drought.

Let's review: Plague? Check. Before there was H1N1, there was Australian B. The sun had not set on the first day of 2000 when I succumbed to a wicked strain of that flu. I was stuck at my in-laws without my dog. I hacked my lungs out until Valentine's Day. Years later, I was stricken with a mysterious stomach ailment that laid me low for months. Sadly, I ate my last chile pepper and chocolate bar and sipped my last latte and my last gin and tonic in 2008.

Exile? Check. I spent the early part of the decade moving around the country in pursuit of my former husband's sputtering career opportunities. Then I was stranded in New England during a mortifying separation and divorce. Fortunately, I had the good sense to move back to Austin, where everyone is in exile from the rest of the state.

Loss? You betcha. Perhaps it happens to all good people who reach their middle ages, but I've clocked more time at funerals than at weddings this decade. I've lost elderly friends, a parent, and a godparent. I lost friendships, too, in the 2000s, for reasons I can't explain. Now my Roma is experiencing technical difficulties with her eating, walking, and sleeping. Her loss will truly signal the end of an era.

Impoverishment? Check, please! As a freelancer, I thought I understood the vagaries of the market, but I never in a million years expected the industry that has supported me for two decades to implode. In January, two of my most reliable clients went out of business without a word and still owing me and several fellow freelancers thousands of dollars. Since March, work has been scarce and payments sloooow. We now ration Nylabones at our house and use cheap soap and coupons.

So, looking back, I think I understand why it feels as though I've been taking it on the chin: I've been taking it on the chin--though no more than most people have. And yet . . . and yet, on the day-to-day, basis, things have not been so bad, have they? (Were they?) Some perspective: Every day for the past 3,650 days, I've had to get out of bed in the morning and take care of a dog or two. We leash up, walk around, chase a ball, eat some kibble, hang together in the  office when I work. Later, we load up in the car and head to Dog Park and pace out a couple of miles at least, no matter the weather. During  this decade, no matter how badly things were going or how miserable we felt, I stuffed my pockets with plastic bags and took the girls out, and somehow walking made us feel better.

So, my friends, I christen our nearly departed decade "The Dogged Aughties," in honor of ten years whose grief and pain were dulled only by walking our paws off or hurling a ball hundreds of times. Even in these worst of times, my dogs remind me that every day is full of possibilities and that even the smallest hope of a brand new Nylabone or a morsel of cheese in the food bowl is worth getting up for. Times will get easier, eventually, and then they will probably get hard again. That is, history books tell us, how they do. The dogs don't know that. Or perhaps they do; they just don't let a bad day—or a bad decade—get in their way.

Here is to a peaceful end to the 2000s. Happy and safe holidays to all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Old Gray Dog Just Ain't What She Used to Be

December is a dark month. The nights are literally longer, of course, but the days still feel long. It's as if a year that has flown by has suddenly turned coy and is reluctant to leave the party. It's dawdling, looking for its jacket in the pile of coats on the bed. It pauses to tell one more inappropriate joke at the door. It can't find its car keys. It can't remember where it parked the car. I want to cry, "Get out already!"

It is so tiresome, December. While the rest of the world is flinging their credit cards around shopping malls, thronging the grocery stores in preparation for Christmas, and draping every vertical object in twinkly lights, I shake my head in dismay. I feel about Christmas the way I feel about the Longhorns. I don't get what all the fuss is about--all the hoohaw over something that is a sure thing every year. Has there ever been a year without a post-season play off or a calendar without a December 25 on it?  Of course, part of the problem for me is that, in this town, everybody assumes that you give a shit about Mack Brown and the birth of Jesus. Honestly. Can no one in this town root for the other team—or no team at all?  Let's just get game day over with so life can resume its normal pace and concerns.  Better  yet, let's all do something nice and generous and peaceful for our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers throughout the year, instead of cramming it all into one 31-day period.

Adding to the December darkness are stories I've been hearing lately about old pets. My mum's cat has stopped eating and is wasting away. Sarah's (Tony) childhood cat has had incurable kidney infections. My Roma, too, has slowed down this month, lost interest in food. She gets confused when she wakes up suddenly. Her funny old face is whiter and her wise eyes are cloudier. Each time she lies down to nap, I wonder if she'll get up again. So far, she always does, but each evening, I pat her good night and say, "You do what you need to do, old girl." The process of watching an old pet navigate its waning days is hard, especially this time of year. So it cheered me today to read a lovely essay by Michelle Slatella in the NYTimes that describes the almost imperceptible process of living with a pet as it grows from puppy to creaky old thing a few short years. I enjoyed reading it, and I hope you do, too. Ta.