Death of a Pig

(Apologies to E.B. White, and my mother, who considered his to be a perfect essay)

I spent several minutes this morning with a disemboweled stuffed pig and I feel I might account for this stretch of time, though I threw away the pig, and I was only mildly inconvenienced, and things might never have gone the other way round. Only thanks to technology, and the video I made, at 10:30 a.m., can I recall the minutes sharply. This certainty afflicts me with a sense of personal responsibility; if I were not so distracted I could have saved the stuffed pig.

The scheme of buying a stuffed pig online, from Wag dot com in December of 2014, and giving it to Captain on Christmas morning, was an impulse, following the success of their online marketing.  It was a transaction enacted by many households with perfect fidelity to the original script. The murder of the stuffed pig, being premeditated, is perhaps only remarkable in its delay. Captain’s vigorous attempts no match for the tough toy, lasting years and years, but the quick and skillful destruction came from the teeth and jaws of the much younger Fellow, and the strewn stuffing and disemboweled pig met an unceremonial ending in the trash. 

In the baffling sameness of days during this pandemic, today might have been yesterday or the day before. Fellow visited the basket of stuffed toys that sits on top of his kennel. He began to play with it, with Eggi looking on. The Bacon Provider, who never stops working now and certainly never did before, gravely tapped away at his laptop keyboard, answering a final email before his next call. Otherwise the kitchen was quiet. I looked over out of presentiment. Stuffing surrounded the busy young dog. Eggi, wholly innocent at this point, made eye-contact with me. The loss we felt was not the loss of a toy but the loss of tidy room. She stood and took the pig-shaped pelt from Fellow with a quick, low, bitchy growl, and set to work rending it herself.  But I am getting ahead of my story and shall have to go back.

From July of 2013 to April of 2017, I happily bought all of my dog and cat food from Wag dot com. What a convenience to have the drudgery of regular monthly errand replaced by a UPS delivery.  When Wag dot com was acquired by Amazon, the pet food specialty site was shut down, and absorbed into the soulless, impossible-to-search morass of the world’s largest online retailer. Surely this is the sort of anti-competitive behavior America has laws against? Oh well, the country had its hands full, utterly avoiding being ready for several of the main challenges we face today. I switched to Chewy.com and did not mourn the loss of another online retailer. 

It was in early December, 2014, when I bought a large Tuffy Polly Pig Plush Dog Toy, without understanding quite how large it was. It was quite large. You can’t always tell with online shopping. The dog it was intended for was Captain, and he enjoyed it, and was unable to open it and pull out the stuffing, which was a thing he did back then. In the years since, other dogs visited and played with it, and the pig endured. We got a puppy, who preferred smaller stuffed toys, and grew up. We got another puppy, and he is a large boy of almost two and a half years now. He plays with everything.

Fellow has my riding gloves

Is there a sock that came off with your muddy boots on the floor in the back hall? Fellow will bring it to you. Or, he will sneak it to his bed and chew it gently, eventually tucking it into the folds of the dog bed to save for later. Is there a stick in the yard, between the sizes of postcard and fencerail? Fellow will take that in his mouth and trot around the yard, clacking it in his jaws, or plowing up the turf and swinging it mightily and dangerously, with no regard for his or others’ safety. Is there a small, forgotten, cat-nip filled stuffed mouse in a basket of neglected cat toys? Fellow will have a romping good time with it, until you take it away on the grounds that he might swallow it. Fellow has a large basket of appropriate dog toys, too, and will on occasion, play with these, choosing one for himself after a studied selection process whereby he picks and rejects other stuffed squirrels and novelty plush sandwiches until he finds, at last, the one he was looking for. 

There is a blur in time now, as you may know, and our pets all love how much we are all staying home. Frankly, I might have forgotten the pig had not Fellow recently been picking it and shaking it and leaping about the kitchen with it. It seemed intact the last time I chucked it back in the toy bin at the momentary burst of tidying I do at the end of each day. Was it actually torn, or weakened in the seams? 

Fellow was silently pulling out the stuffing and going in for more. Stuffing expands as it is removed, and this plush pig had been made taut and hard as a drum it was so well-stuffed and sturdy. The fabric of its exterior, once penetrated, surrendered completely to the plucking teeth of the dog. Fellow surrounded himself with the extricated filling.

In the next moment, Eggi asserted herself and took it, settling nearby to rip and chewy and  involve her teeth in the texture of the fabric. 

I knelt, taking the pig from her without scolding. Though I didn’t see either dog eat any of it, it isn’t safe to let this continue. Eggi seemed disappointed, but Fellow had a mild look, expressive of the deep pleasure of toy-having and toy-killing, and no more hurt by my taking it from Eggi as he was in surrendering it to her. 

I carried the pig to the trash and went back for the stuffing. Two armloads. 

It is Thursday, my blog posting day, so the news of the death of this pig can travel faster and farther than in generations past. In my email, I was able to track down the stuffed toy, where and when obtained, and order another, to be delivered with our next shipment of kibble and cat litter from Chewy. 

The pig is so easily replaced it will be as if it never left. 

Today in February

This was the longest February of my life. I ordered four too many jars of dijon mustard from Fresh Direct because someone else keeps putting the groceries away while I keep trying to replace what I could not find. I am sorry to say I had to decline eight or eleventy-seven and a third invitations to Zoom events, because I knew I’d forget to join anyway. I stared for many hours blank-eyed into the void of space between me and the pantry, scrounging together dozens of meals with listless resentment. I stood barefoot and amazed by the hundreds of snowstorms that rolled through Bedhead Hills this February, and the dogs enjoyed most of the thousand mile marches on snowshoes through our speck of woods. There were ten thousand and one migraines for me, and a hundred thousand interminable Tuesdays, and of course I was ever so busy ignoring eight hundred fifty three thousand spam phone calls, deleting a million and six unwanted emails, vacuuming up twelve million thirty two thousand five hundred of those dead orange ladybugs, and I do not exaggerate about making ninety-nine million attempts to check the New York State covid-19 vaccine portal all resulting in no appointments available, unless you are willing to travel 400 miles for one, life-saving shot, and then do it again a few weeks later.

Oh, and the other thing is I kept up with the daily coronavirus data, and made one of these every day.

Lemme know if you need some dijon mustard.

Dog Doo

Vizsla in the kitchen, seen through the chairs

The house is quiet and the dogs are put away for the night. Fellow woofs gently and whines, twitching and paddling in his sleep, gently rattling the bars of his kennel, and then is quiet again. I am finished deleting emails, ignoring spam phone calls, and looking at TikToks until my phone runs out of juice.

It snowed again last Friday, and some more on Saturday, and so by Sunday when I was putting on my snowshoes to walk the dogs in the woods, it was somehow a little bit fresh and exciting again. Even the Bacon Provider set aside the barometer/altimeter iPhone app he works on on weekends to come with us.

His snow boots were with mine in the back hall. His snowshoes were on a shelf in the garage. He found a hat he could use in the closet, but where were his gloves? Didn’t he use them to dig out his car on Saturday? He grabbed a pair of insulated work gloves instead.

And we jollied Captain into coming along.

The original layer of deep snow is now several weeks old, and I am glad I checked the backyard for poo before it fell. I have done my best to dig up the dog shit in the yard as it has been produced, but there are three of them, and they eat two meals a day, and hot poo sinks in snow and the snow re-freezes overnight, and then you have to chip it out again. It’s nasty. It’s necessary. It’s part of owning dogs.

If you are thinking of getting yourself a pandemic puppy, go forth with the knowledge that your dog may bring unconditional love to your life, should get you to go outside more often, and comes with drool, barking, and probably more poo than you bargained for. A dog trainer I knew many years ago used to say, “Barking is one of the functions of a dog;” it is something I think about almost every day. Pooping is another of the functions of a dog. Also, you will regularly examine your dog’s poo, and find out how they’re doing, and also that they’ve been eating cat turds, or toilet paper rolls, or sticks.

As we dug out the snow by the gate so we could leave the yard, I told the Bacon Provider that going into the woods with two dogs off leash was harder than going into the woods with three dogs off leash, because three is a pack, and the old one will stay with you, and the other ones will keep checking in; but when there are just two dogs, they go off together and make bad choices (barking at the neighbors, chasing deer). Of course, I was full of shit.

All three of my dogs return on recall (which is why it is ok to take them out of the fenced yard and into our woods). But, they are not perfect and neither am I. So I headed into the woods, and right away I had to redirect Fellow who was headed in the wrong direction, and by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, Eggi and Fellow had run past me and the Bacon Provider pointed out that Captain was not with us. Almost without stopping or turning around (you have to make a small circle in snowshoes! If you try to turn on the spot you will almost certainly fall over), I declared with all the wisdom of the dog expert of the house that the dog would follow if the Bacon Provider would stop looking back to see if he was coming. And again, though this is usually true, it was, in this case, not true.

With continued encouragement, Captain did eventually catch up to us, and we did manage a couple of laps of the snowshoeing trail I’ve been maintaining. We did a bit of exploring of the part of the woods that is normally the wettest and thus the least explorable. Under the snow the ice had melted, so we were walking over frozen mud and open water. This is the part of the woods where the skunk cabbage grows; last year it came up in March.

When we got back up the hill to the gate, we found the reason Captain had gone back to the yard: he needed to poop, and had wanted to get back into the yard to do his business.

Now in the past I would have finished by saying something along the lines that we can all relate to Captain’s predicament, because who doesn’t prefer pooping at home? But these days, who goes anywhere?

So, instead I will end with include pictures I took when I was brushing their teeth.

Winter Weather

In the car on the way to dog agility class late Monday afternoon, Fellow was snuffling and chuffing, pressing his nose onto the car window in the way-back. I asked him what he was doing. He didn’t answer. I guess he wishes he could smell things as we pass by. I had heard some news about another storm rolling in, but it hadn’t started by the time we left for class and I didn’t give it much thought. What I did think about was windshield wipers on the inside of the car windows, for dog slobber and nose prints.

The light came on my dashboard saying I needed wiper fluid.

After class, we left as we always do, one owner at a time, minimizing the dangerous chaos of leashed dogs on the stairs, and each of us took turns finding out that the flight of stairs which had been dry when we arrived was now perfectly coated in a very fine layer of almost invisible ice. We dropped our leashes and let the dogs figure it out on their own. The heedless dogs innocently continued down a few steps, slipped, stumbled and fell down the rest of the way, landing surprised but unhurt.  Then we owners made our way down, sideways, clinging to the rail and trying to keep our footing. Of the people, only the instructor actually fell, slipping on the last step before the landing.

Freezing rain is a betrayal. It flies in the face of reason. Here we are, the supposed big-brained, ass-kicking hominid, with a solid grasp of the freezing temperature of water. Freezing rain is a slap in the face of my understanding of when it should snow and when it shouldn’t. It was more than cold enough to snow, and it was raining. I don’t mind driving in snow. I object strongly to driving in freeing rain.

It was 29F and the raindrops were fine, like drizzle, but not gentle like mist. Sprayed. Or blasted. It wasn’t so much as falling as enclosing the early evening in a thick cloak of trouble. Everywhere the pavement  was a slippery beyond slick.

Out on the freeway, everyone was keeping to themselves, going slower than usual, resisting the urge to take the empty left lane. My windshield wipers smeared the rain in two neat, persistent arcs. Keeping the roads salted and plowed is a responsibility local and state government takes seriously in New York, and the drive was reassuringly quiet and straightforward all the way home. Once there, I rolled the garbage cans out for pickup the next morning, and found in a single step that my own driveway was too slick to walk on.

The next day the sun came out and the temperature climbed steadily, hitting 48F in the afternoon. I went to town to try to get some windshield wiper fluid, but went home empty-handed because everyone had beaten me to it.

Captain enjoying a nap on a winter afternoon

We have so much snow on the ground from that big storm a few weeks ago, and two additional significant snowfalls since, that a weirdly warm day clears the pavement and changes the texture of the packed snow without melting it away. I went out in the back yard with the dogs after dark as everything commenced re-freezing. My snowshoeing path along the fence line was hard and uneven and difficult to walk on; the untrodden snow was passable, though soft and wet and noisy to traverse in boots.

Tuesday night

Overnight, the temperatures dropped and the snow froze again. Another storm was expected Thursday. Meanwhile, on Twitter, some of my Texas friends complained of their abnormally cold, snowy disaster. Others, without power or heat or water simply disappeared from the timeline.

Thursday morning the sky was gray but bright–a sky that warned of snow. Snow began to fall in Bedhead Hills about 10 am.

When you live someplace that regularly gets snow, you make arrangements in the fall for someone to come plow the snow off your driveway or acquire the tools for doing it yourself. You chat with friends about the dangers of icicles, the best kind of dog-safe snow-melt and snow shovels. You develop habits like keeping pasta and bacon and eggs and frozen peas on hand so you can make spaghetti carbonara the way you like it and without any notice. You know that your town salted the roads before the storm, and will have the roads cleared of snow as soon as they can. You try to have your furnace serviced once a year. You make plans but you don’t apologize when you have to cancel appointments because of the weather.

Multitasking Fellow watching the bird feeder and having a bone at the same time

I changed from my pajamas into long underwear and snowpants and put on my insulated boots. I wrestled both of the younger dogs into their parkas and tossed my snowshoes out onto the back steps. Fellow barked at me while I monkeyed with the straps.

I opened the gate and the dogs rushed out and down the hill into our woods. They followed the trail for a bit and then plunged into the brush, taking great leaps through the snow. When they disappeared, I called them back, and they came eagerly. I gave them each a small dog treat from my pocket, and sent them off again.

About a month ago, Eggi found a dead snake in the woods. Back then, winter was predicted to be wet but relatively warm, and therefore snowless. She showed me today that she found the snake again, under the snow. Dogs are not wrong: the woods are better than the highway; you can smell more.

Then, Eggi alerted me to the presence of a man, walking alone on the road at the edge of our property. I yelled at her to come, but it was hard to convince her to return to me, and harder still when Fellow chose to back her up and join in the barking. The man stopped walking, probably alarmed by the dogs or the volume and tone of my yelling, and then Fellow turned towards me. My shouts of praise and encouragement brought him all the way in. I gave him more of the dog treats in my pocket and made a big fuss over him. Then I called Eggi again and she gave up her scolding of the stranger.

Eggi and her nose

As the afternoon unfolds, the snow continues to fall. The dogs begin lobbying for an early dinner.

Covid 19.21.3

Every day still blends into every other day.

It is Monday. The cat is hollering. I have pilates. I go upstairs to the room that has space for the yoga mat, but I forget my computer. I’ve forgotten to wear socks. I am scrolling through my email from the instructor looking for the Zoom link. I am late. Two days later I have pilates again. It is still as if I never left the room.

It is snowing. It is sunny. It is rainy and windy. The power goes out. It takes two days to come on again. We panic about the propane. It is sunny again, but very cold. We walk in the woods and see fox footprints. There are two piles of fresh dog shit on the side of the road and they aren’t ours. My bag is full, but I pick up one with the end of the bag, above the knot, and then try to get the other, carrying it awkwardly and spilling it in the road. We dance around it.

Captain

Our neighbors at the Tennis Party house have a huge new generator. I have never met them. Maybe someday they will introduce themselves to my husband, who looks like he is someone. I have reached the age of invisibility.

My other neighbors are back. They were in Florida for a couple of months, but now I can hear their children playing in their yard. Then they are gone. Maybe they are just inside.
It is still yesterday.
It is almost tomorrow.
It is again today.
In April I asked, “How far are we from the end?” I am embarrassed by this question now.

The Wednesdays of January were rather extra: insurrection, impeachment, inauguration, investor revolution. Now it is February but it’s like still last March.

It is Monday, 3:30 pm. I see school buses out on the roads and I want to scream. How many more people have to die for us to do what it takes to stop spreading the virus?

It is Saturday.  It is 10 am. It is quiet. I believe it wasn’t always this quiet but I don’t really remember. I am thinking about eating, not because I am hungry, but because I am bored. It feels like I am in 4th grade, and I am alone in the kitchen, standing barefoot in the pantry, looking at the food. I will eat three bowls of Cap’n Crunch.

I am in the sewing room at 10:45. I’m not really doing anything, but I am sewing little strips of fabric together. I might keep going, and I might toss it in the bin. The clock in the sewing room is stopped. It isn’t really 10:45. It is always 10:45. I can stay in there as long as I like, because time never passes in the sewing room.

Forever 10:45


Airplanes pass overhead and I think about the people inside, drinking plastic cups of diet soda and going on ski vacations.

It snows again, and this time the storm lasts two days and it’s enough to snowshoe in. The dogs sink in the deep snow, up to their chests. I refill the bird feeders and do it again two days later. My efforts to keep the steps clear of snow are another joke.

It snows again. I dig out the gates and take the dogs for a walk in our woods. The wetlands are frozen over, ice buried under two feet of snow. We can explore areas that are normally too wet to get through, and scramble over the dry stone wall. We stop and watch a single car drive by on the road. I call the dogs and we head back up the hill.

It is Thursday. I have a dentist appointment at 1 pm. I get a ride to the station and take the train into the city. There is almost no one on the train, but everyone has a mask on. I am wearing a (washable, homemade) cloth mask over a (precious but disposable) N95 mask. I make eye-contact with a man who reaches into his backpack and adds a second, fabric mask to his N95 mask. I am for a moment not invisible. If one more person decides to start wearing two masks because they read this, because they—like me–wanna stay uninfected until it’s their turn for the vaccine, then this blog is worth my effort.

At Grand Central, they’ve put up lot of scaffolding and there are people but no real crowds. Even when you know why it’s so quiet, it seems too quiet. At the dentist they have a device to shower my masks with UV rays while they clean my teeth. My teeth are ok. Nothing seems ok. The dentist and I agree that everything seems so weird. I take the train back to Bedhead Hills

I sit in the kitchen listening to the sounds the dishwasher makes. The unusual bottle-filling noise. The spinning noise. The noise like towels in the surf. The noise a griffin would make as it puked up a hairball. The oven timer goes off. The bread is ready.

It is Sunday at 1:30. I can’t find the new gloves I bought. You know the ones? The ones I put a hole in, the first time I wore them? I don’t know where they are; they’re in a pocket, in a trans-dimensional jacket, in an other-worldly closet, lying in a heap on the floor, tangled with singleton shoes. I find other gloves. We walk. 

It is Friday around 7 am. I feed the dogs and then the cat. The cat has a dining nook far from the kitchen so he can eat in peace. On my way back to the kitchen I grab the paper from the front walk. In the kitchen I do the KenKens and then I write down what day it is. I look up the latest coronavirus data and write that down, too. Then I take a picture of it, and I post it on Twitter. The same four people “like” it; they don’t like it at all.

Back in April I thought it was remarkable that there were about to be a million known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and the next day there would be almost 60,000 dead Americans. It might have been remarkable. But it wasn’t. Now there have been more than 27 million cases and almost 470,000 dead Americans. Back in April people were talking about what song lyrics you could sing so you washed your hands long enough. Back in April people were looking forward to kids going back to school in the fall. Back in April the CDC was unclear about whether people should be wearing masks.

It is Tuesday at 10:30. I take Eggi to dog class. I bring three pieces of string cheese for her and only use two. I eat the other one in the car. I think about stopping for gas, but there are two many men at the gas station and the only one with a mask is wearing it around his neck. I drive on.

Last fall, I read somewhere that the prediction for New York was a wet winter but no snow. In the past week we’ve had a spectacular amount of snow, and more is expected. We already live like we’re snowed in: every grocery order includes staples, so we are always prepared.

Eggi comes into season and we have to send Fellow away for a few weeks. While he is gone the older dogs sleep and sleep and sleep. When he comes back, I take pictures of the pets all together to make a valentine.

I send valentines to girlfriends in five countries.

Two rooms away the Bacon Provider is working. Long hours, all on calls and video calls. Even with the doors closed I can hear how it’s going. I creep around like there’s a room full of high school juniors in there, taking the PSAT. I sneak in with a fresh cup of tea, placing it next to him and taking away a half-empty mug. Captain slides in behind me, and settles on the office couch.

It is Tuesday at 5:45 pm, and I get a text from a friend with pictures of freshly baked bread and a question about rye flour. My experience with sourdough goes back a few more years than many people, who picked it up during the pandemic. I am happy to offer advice. I light the candles on the kitchen table for dinner and use the last match in the box. Tomorrow we will realize we are out of matches, and go through the pockets of coats in the closet in search of matches from restaurants we went to in 2019.

It is 2 am. I dream the war is ending. We are just trying so hard to keep everyone together. There are still bullets flying from time to time, but if you crack open the door and call out, real loud, “Hey! Be cool! It’s over; it’s over! Stop shooting!” they do stop, for a few minutes anyway. But the thing is everyone is so used to shooting and being shot at no one knows how to stop and stay stopped.

 It is today. It snowed again last night. I wake up with another headache. It is a new day, but it feels like the same headache.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 74542.5

Earth, The Solar System, Orion Arm, The Milky Way, Virgo Cluster

It has been, in Earth time, 12 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 5 days since I joined this post. I regret the long gap since my last report.

The humans maintain a primitive airlock between their food preparation area and the exterior of their domicile.

On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, my team and I are observing Earth in anticipation of their eligibility for membership. We await the humans’ development of faster-than-light space travel travel, and, of course, also, quite a bit of progress on the rights of human individuals and global peace. 

Earth is in the throes of a global pandemic, with over 100.5 million recorded cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide, and at least 2.1 million deaths as of this writing. The virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is an airborne virus, the spread of which is easily preventable by social distancing, quarantining, and mask-wearing. Unfortunately, warring Earth factions, primitive thinking on the part of leaders, and unruly citizens have refused to make the changes necessary to contain the spread. Vaccines have been developed, and the humans are tentatively attempting to distribute them. As of this writing, none of my human companions have contracted the disease yet.

In order not to violate Starfleet General Order 1, or SGO1, also known as the prime directive, I have be required to maintain my silence about preventing and treating COVID-19. The mystifying adherence to the principles of capitalism have meant that vaccines have not been produced in sufficient quantity and unfairly distributed. 

Eggi and I participate in typical human religious rituals. Here, we thank the Cabbage Gods.

I continue to work with a small crew, including Grand Champion Suzu and Shannon’s Egészégedre, who serves as my first officer, and chief security officer. There is also my science officer, known here as Schwartz. My previous coworkers, Cherry, Wheatie, and Pluto, who established first contact, stardate 46112.5,  no longer serve in this mission. Wheatie departed early in my tour, and Cherry on stardate 71338.5. Within the next Earth year after Cherry ended her tour of duty, I was joined by my very able first officer, known as Eggi, and about an earth year after that, by Ensign Fellow. 

My crew, making scientific observations

Fellow is currently on an away mission; our Earth hosts have detected that Eggi is entering a reproductive cycle and have separated them. Eggi has lobbied repeatedly to increase the size of our research team, and feels that 8 new members could be put to work after only a year of training. Though I agree with her, my reproductive equipment was altered a decade ago, so I am unable to help her in this project.  

Typically, we busy ourselves with a variety of projects, including daily patrols of the surrounding area, which we carry out on foot, walking in a group, tethered to one of our human hosts. Rations are delivered twice a day, and while adequate nutritionally-speaking, some crew members feel that our hosts feed themselves better than they do us.

Another religious ritual: the Adoration of the Brussel Sprout

While we await humanitarian and scientific progress, we have been conducting long-term studies of plant and animal life on earth, paying particular attention to the dwindling numbers of wild songbirds, and noting with some concern the thriving populations of squirrels (the introduced species Sciurus carolinensis), several species of rats, deer (Odocoileus virginianus), skunks (Mephitis mephitis), and raccoons (Procyon lotor). Ensign Fellow has shown the initiative to embark on his own research regarding moles (Scalopus aquaticus).

I am proud to serve Starfleet

My team has engaged in ongoing debate about the consequences of strictly adhering to SGO1; Eggi feels that now viral mutations are spreading in the area where we are stationed, and we risk losing our hosts. We also note that global warming continues unabated, so the projections our climatologists made a century ago about Earth’s future have proven to be correct.

In closing, I regret to inform Starfleet that I am beginning to experience degenerative symptoms consistent with my age, and will soon be nearing the end of my useful service here. If suitable transport back to headquarters or a Federation planet cannot be arranged, Eggi will take command of the team as my successor when the time comes.

Tuesdays with Eggi

Everything my person puts on her face I also want on my face.

I am Eggi. I am three years old. 

Every day I wake up and very first thing I have to jump on the bed and see if anyone is still sleeping. Then I run to the back door because a girl has to go pee as soon as she can, every day. I run out the door and go around the yard as fast as I can in case there was a squirrel or a bird. 

Then I go pee and then I need to come back inside immediately to find out what is taking so long with breakfast.

Eggi loves breakfast

I like to wait for my breakfast in my kennel in case they forget to give me mine. I always eat all of my breakfast, including all three vitamin pills (one to make me shiny, one to make me run fast, and one that I don’t know what it’s for). I clean my bowl. I would eat twice as much breakfast as they give me.

Then I have to have a nap in my kennel because that is the rule in this house.

When they open the door to my kennel I have to go check the cat’s bowl first. The cat’s food is even better than mine.

Then we run outside some more. You have to check behind the bushes because there might be something there.

We’re coming’!

On Tuesdays I skip the morning nap and I go to obedience class. I get a cookie just for getting in the car. I rest in the car but I do not nap because I have to be extremely ready for what’s next. 

When we are almost there I stand up and do a little bit of squealing and howling; I am quite excited to arrive. 

I have to wear a leash to go from the car to the classroom, up a flight of stairs above a big garage. Before I go up the stairs I do a pee so everyone knows that I, Eggi, was here. 

Obedience class is with my good friend, Hamilton, and this other dog, Walker. Hamilton’s person brings me chicken so I always run over to say hello to her. Hamilton himself is a gray standard poodle and if you don’t know what that is, it’s like a vizsla, but the wrong color, and with fluffy soft curls. Hamilton is fun to chase or play boxing with. Sometimes when Hamilton jumps he goes extra high and I find it a little embarrassing but don’t tell him I said so because I wouldn’t want him to be self-conscious about it. If I were to be another kind of dog maybe I would be a poodle.

Smart vizsla (me) with dumbbell

I am good at heeling and getting the dumbbell, but I do like to toss it back onto my molars to give it a good hard chomp even though I am not supposed to. I get special things like cheese and pieces of pork chop at obedience class. I like all dog treats even the sad, dry ones that other dogs don’t like. I check the spots on the floor every week, just in case there are crumbs.

Mostly, I am a very good girl at obedience class until I get tired; my teacher says sometimes dogs get headaches. Then I have trouble knowing when I should be sitting and when I should be lying down. 

After class I have another pee and get one more cookie just for jumping back into the car.

I have a rest in the car almost all the way home but when we turn onto our road I leap to my feet and squeal because I know we are almost there.

Captain and Fellow are happy and excited that I am home and we all run out to check the bird feeder for birds and then the back fence for people. Usually Fellow wants to play chase and while he is fast, I am clever and I am quick, so I always win.

If the UPS truck comes I bark a lot because that’s what dogs are supposed to do; I don’t make the rules.

Sometimes the bed is big enough for only one of us and sometimes the bed is big enough for all of us.

If Fellow gets a squeaky toy I have to take it away from him and even though we have plenty of toys he will bother me until I give it back.

In the afternoon when we go for a walk, sometimes we stick to the road and sometimes we go in the woods. I like to pee on the corner by the stop sign so everyone knows this is my house. Me, Eggi. I live here.  If there are any big rocks on the way we stop and my person says, “Table,” which means get up on it so I stand on the rock and my person takes a picture. If I see deer I stand up on my hind legs and yell my head off. Deer make me mad as heck. Usually I have to poop, and I spend a long time finding the perfect place to poop because I have my standards. When we get home from a walk we run around the yard as fast as we can just to show the people how slow they are.

I have several jackets to wear when it is cold outside but this is certainly my most stylish.

Then we have a rest to wait for dinner, and sometimes it is a very long time to wait.

Nevertheless, it is important to wait in the kitchen when the people are cooking because you can get pieces of carrot or potato just for being in the right place at the right time. And sometimes food gets dropped on the floor and cleaning it up is a dog’s job.

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At dinner time I always eat all of my dinner. I would eat twice as much dinner as they give me.

Then I have to have a nap in my kennel because that is another rule in this house.

After the people are done with their dinner, they open the door to my kennel, and I have to go check the cat’s bowl again. 

Then we run outside some more.

Running around in the dark is very exciting.

I like getting my teeth brushed

When we are done running around, we press ourselves against the French doors so the people can see that we need to come in immediately. My person makes us sit on a rug before we track mud everywhere.

We usually take another nap until it’s time to watch TV. We like TV and I always sit with my person.

I like TV shows with space ships in them. Fellow likes movies about dogs.

When it’s time for bed we get to go run around outside one last time and my person yells “No toads!” at me and “No jumping out!” at Fellow. She doesn’t yell at Captain because Captain’s too old to jump out and too slow for toads. When we come inside, everyone gets their teeth brushed, even the cat. Then we get one last treat for going in our kennels and go to sleep. Sometimes Fellow digs for a while in his kennel. I might have to turn around three times, and sigh. 

I hope tomorrow is Tuesday again, but if it isn’t, that’s ok, because I will probably get breakfast anyway.

A Conversation I Overheard

Captain: “What are you wearing?”

Eggi: “Dunno what it’s called. I’ve got the girl flu.”

Captain: “The what?”

Eggi: “The curse.”

Captain: “That sounds bad.”

Eggi: “You know, Aunt Flo.”

Captain: “…um…”

Eggi: “Come on, Red tide.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “Shark week.”

Captain: “…um…”

Eggi: “Code red.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “On the rag.”

Captain: “…er…”

Eggi: “Ladies’ week.”

Captain: “…uh…”

Eggi: “Red army.”

Captain: “Red army?!”

Eggi: “Time of the month.”

Captain: “…uh?”

Eggi: “La semaine ketchup.”

Captain: “Ketchup? I like ketchup.”

Eggi: “Surfing the crimson wave?”

Captain: “Are we going swimming? I love swimming!”

Eggi: “No, no…like a visit from my relative from Rotenburg.”

Captain: “Is it someone I know?”

Eggi: “Le petit clown qui saigne du nez?”

Captain: “Ooh, ooh! Clowns! I love clowns!”

Eggi: “Oh come on. Checking into the Red Roof Inn?”

Captain: “…”

Eggi: “Oh, look, a squirrel!”

 

 

Mud Mask

This shit started when this friend I’ll call W was coming to visit with their new SO. The last time we saw W, they were at the end of a relationship, and it was rocky and bad;  words were exchanged, disappointments voiced, phone calls avoided and emails unreturned. Breakups are ugly, I get it, but seriously, people, you know the rest of us can see you? 

So ok W was coming and bringing the new SO and we were getting floors vacuumed and the sheets changed when W texted me to say the new SO was sick and they weren’t coming after all. Which meant we could stop vacuuming. Which was, despite the disappointment, sorta ok. We had agreed to take care of The Graduate’s GF’s fuzzy little dog for the weekend. He’d be our houseguest. Something else to do.

GqFHGW58TSu0aDUz2z34uAI was out in the yard with all the dogs when I got a text from my brother asking about an article that the Search Engine Monopoly suggested to him, written by J, one of my internet friends. My brother was like don’t you know this person and I was all sure that’s J. Is that a real friend my brother asked and I did not hesitate to say yes. 

I never like set out to have internet friends. I had them before I realized, really. When I moved from Seattle I felt disconnected from most of the people I saw every day. It was like we were dead to them. Of course, no one warned me. I just set off on my adventure with all my family, pets, and possessions, and no one wondered whatever happened to us. And that first year, we lived in North Dreadful, which had its downs and downers. And then we lived in the city, and there was a hurricane. But somewhere in there I made a Twitter for my cat, and ended up with some pocket friends.

J was one of the first people I talked to regularly on Twitter. Back in 2012, he caught me at peak cussing-on-the-internet, and RTed me as @HamsterRelish “what kind of twat says “va-jay-jay?” it’s VAGINA.” We go way back. 

I talk to J on three platforms, I told my brother. I’m looking forward to having lunch with him. (Not because we had plans to have lunch, but because I always imagined I would have a reason to go to J-ville and we would have lunch. Maybe get a mani-pedi. You know, friend things.)

But then standing in the yard watching three dogs run around I got to thinking about J and wondered why I hadn’t seen a post in about a week, which was unusual given that we were connected on three platforms.

And it was a Facebook post, to J’s wall, from J’s longtime SO, that said something about J being gone and that sure as shit didn’t make any sense.

So I looked up J’s mother. And she had a post saying that J’s last words were “Just love each other.” 

J could tell me which peanut butter cookie recipe to use and follow it up with a hilarious 80s song reference. J wrote beautifully about being a therapist, and had a plush vagina pillow on the couch at work. J encouraged my revolting and fanciful ideas about cat-milk-cheese. J tried on all the funny hats at Target. J could take down a Twitter troll and make them cry uncle. J called bullshit on homophobia, on racism, on sexism. J knew what Bundt cakes to make. J had names and numbers for mental health specialists. J took selfies with a mud mask on his face. J knew more about suicide than anyone I know. J knew when people’s husband’s employers were in the news and that not all news that seemed good actually is good. J knew how to DM me on three platforms, and did.

Your internet friends are pocket friends. They live in your phone. They know your pet peeves and your enthusiasms. They are real friends you see all the time. They go everywhere with you.

So where the fuck was J.

I checked all three platforms.

It didn’t make any sense. He was just there the other day, when the truck full of axe body spray exploded in Texas. When he walked his dog. 

I’ve had other friends disappear on social media. Sometimes they come back with another name. Sometimes they don’t. I’ve even had an acquaintance in Australia die. But this.

I hearted the posts from his SO and his mother.

And within minutes the algorithm was showing the posts to our mutual friends. And by the end of the day I was juggling DMs from mutual friends on three platforms. 

What happened.

Are you ok.

I am ok. Are you ok. I am gutted. I don’t understand. No, me either.

Luckily, in my weird little privileged world, there are always dogs to walk and horses to ride, and I kept going. Horses demanded my attention. Dogs, dogs, dogs. I was a little out of it, and had to tell my horse trainer, but we got to work, because I had regionals to prepare for. My new horse and I qualified for the championships, ok sure only at training level but it was coming up. An important horse show seems stupid and strange when you’re upset about someone who died, but also good and simple and true. We worked to get there. We were ready.

But then right after I’d left the barn my mare spooked and got a big cut on her hip. The barn manager texted me right away. She called for the vet and sent me a photo. It looked like a clean slice. Not too deep.

We got home and headed out to walk the dogs. Eggi was too excited for words and kept licking my face and bumping into Captain. The Houseguest looked fuzzily nonplussed, but I fitted him with his little blue collar and leash. I handed the Houseguest’s leash to the Bacon Provider, and took our two dogs myself. We were doing the short loop, through the woods. We were about a half-mile from home when I heard the Bacon Provider make a sort of hiccuping noise. I turned around to see him holding a leash, attached to a little blue  collar, buckled into a neat round loop with no fuzzy dog in it. The Houseguest was booking it back down the trail towards our house. Now the Bacon Provider is not accustomed to fuck-ups, and takes things v seriously, and he took off running after the fuzzy little punk, despite my attempts to explain that he really should not chase the dog. DON’T I shouted CHASE HIM to the empty woods.

Then I was alone in the woods with my two dogs, and my phone rang and it was the vet. She had sewn up the hole in the horse. I asked about the upcoming show. “Well,” said the vet, “if it were on her leg, I’d say no. and if it were on her face I’d say no problem. You should stick to light work for the next few days and we’ll see.”

Sticking to light work.

What happened. 

Horses are stupid.

But what happened.

There was a guy, fixing a thing, with a power tool. It made a noise. The horse scooted.

Is she ok.

She’ll be ok. 

Don’t you have a show coming up.

Back at the house, the Bacon Provider and the Houseguest looked like nothing had happened. I thought about posting something about how naughty the Houseguest was on one or three platforms but thought his owner might be sad to learn he was being a pain while she was away.  

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A couple days passed and the Bacon Provider left for a business trip. My horse and I stuck to light work. By Tuesday it was clear the stitches were holding nicely. But the stitches are right on her hip, and if she stood the wrong way on the trailer ride she might open it again. I made the decision to keep my horse home from the show. Even though it was the championships. Even though we worked so hard to get there. Even though.

I got a text from my husband sitting on his plane where he saw W’s ex who boarded after he did. Had W and the new SO made it for the weekend, they would have very likely all run into each other at the airport. JFC people the rest of us can see you. Be good to each other, even if you have to let someone go.

I walked all three dogs by myself.

I got in bed early and put a mud mask on my stupid sad face.

I got a text around 10 from my neighbor. She was away and the person who was supposed to do barn check hadn’t. Could I go over and throw the horses a flake of hay? Of course I could. I washed off the mud mask. Real life friends and neighbors are important. I went in my pajamas. Her horses were fine.

But

Dammit 

I miss you, J.

Little E at the Big E

When Cherry died in late November, we were still in the middle of remodeling our house. Captain was pretty lonely, but my plan was to get a puppy the following summer, after we would be you know airquotes-finished. But kitchens and bathrooms take frickin forever, and in March when a third person told me I had to go see S about a vizsla puppy, I did. 

I didn’t say yes, definitely on that day; I waited for the Bacon Provider to have the same experience lifting a perfect ten week old out of the puppy pen and snugging the little squirmulator because why waste words telling him about it? The litter was born between Xmas and New Years, and they were all named for toasts, so we named ours Egészségedre (Hungarian for Cheers!), and we call her Eggi.

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We’ve owned vizslas since 1992, but never shown one. Eggi looks exactly as I think a vizsla should, and is happy and eager and clever as clever and somehow because of these things it seemed reasonable and not ridiculous to show her. In addition to puppy class, Eggi and I did a few weeks of practicing dog show skills with a trainer (stopping and standing instead of sitting, trotting, being stacked, letting a person peel back her lips to show her teeth). Eggi thought it was fine, if a little boring compared to agility. I tripped over my own feet.

We went up to Massachusetts on a Thursday night on account of the early start at her first dog show on the next day. Eggi is a bit awkward about getting into the car, but once she’s in her kennel, she is a good traveller. Through the creepy intensity of dark Connecticut and late-night Massachusetts, we listened to Jack London’s White Fang. At the hotel, the hallway smelled of bleach. A solitary woman in the gym next to our room walked quietly on the treadmill until the midnight closing time. I gave Eggi a bath in the hotel tub.

Staying in a hotel with a young, reactive dog, you sneak in and out, peering into the hall and checking both ways before you leave your room.  It’s not because the dog isn’t allowed but because you don’t know what weirdness you’re going to run into. It could be another dog. It could be the housekeeping cart. It could be people with a lot of luggage. All of these things are frightening and/or exciting to an almost-8-month-old dog. The worst encounter we had was in the hall outside our room as we were coming in; someone’s tall, beefy nephew had the airquotes-hilarious idea of pretending to be very, very afraid of my dog. He shrieked and waved his hands in agitation above his head. Someone’s uncle needs to explain to this guy why he shouldn’t do this, to any dog, ever again. Not me, though. I gotta get up early.

West Springfield, Massachusetts has a giant fairgrounds surrounded by chainlink and barbed wire, called like the Great Enormous Northern American States Super Exposition Center or some-such-something, but anyway folks call it the Big E. You pay five dollars to go in, and then you drive all over the acres of pavement around many huge barns, past the midway, over on the other side of the apparently actual New England town this thing grew up around, and then circumnavigate seven huge buildings, each bigger than the last, looking for the Country Life Pavilion, or the Better Living Complex, or some such building. It was flanked by a several rows of RVs.

I looked for dogs, and Door Number 7.

I was instructed to arrive at 7:15, and I made it, despite my circuitous route inside the Big E. I parked and walked Eggi around for about 15 minutes, begging her to pee.  She would prefer not to.

Inside, it’s as big an indoor space as they make and had eight show rings surrounded by row upon row of dog crates and grooming tables.  It had the noisy quality of something big happening a block away, but you couldn’t hear anyone until they were right next to you.

Our handler T was easy enough to find (she saw me and waved wildly). I was told to go sit by the ring and wait. I got myself a large coffee and found a bench.

At 8 am, they played the national anthem. Folks turned and faced the American flag painted on the wall above the snack bar. I held my coffee in my hand. I watched one guy with his hand on his heart try to make eye-contact with another man so he’d see his take-off-your-hat-you-disrespectful-goon gesture. 

I wanted to yell play ball afterwards but I didn’t. I sat back down.

Tell folks you’re going to a dog show and they’ll say how much they loved that movie. You know the one. Yeah, yeah, the busy bee. The only people who don’t wanna tell you all about their favorite scene are the people who actually go to dog shows; I’ve never heard them talk about that movie.

Right away the handlers started bringing the vizslas that had gathered into the ring, and doing the trotting, and the stacking, and the bite-revealing thing I had tried to learn. In other rings there were other people with other kinds of dogs like beagles and French bulldogs, and spaniels and boxers and mastiffs. All the flavors of dogs. The people consisted of the judges and handlers all dressed in business attire, and a few straggling owners, some of whom looked like they just rolled out of their Winnebago in the sweats they slept in.

Each little group of competing dogs was in and out quickly, and the winners chosen rapidly. I kept my opinions about which vizslas I liked to myself. Some of the handlers were fun to watch because they moved well. The dogs lined up, the dogs trotting alone. The judge running her hands over a dog. The dogs trotting in a group. The judge pointing at one dog, and then another. You could look away and miss it. They go out, and the winning dogs come back in to compete with other winners.

Just like that movie.

Anyway, after some dogs there was Eggi’s group.

She is still a puppy and she was pretty wiggly but T made her look elegant and spirited instead of goofy and wild and of course I beamed at her and clapped when she won. Because of course she won!

Then T had to rush to another ring to go show some other kind of dog and she handed Eggi off to another handler who showed her in the next group and I guess she won again and then T came back and showed her a third time and I really don’t know what happened other than we came out with three ribbons and a lot of people being very excited.

“Do you know what she won?” T asked.

“Not really,” I admitted.

“Best of Winners for a major.” 

Dog shows are pretty stinking fun when you win. The handler even gets to take a picture with the dog and the judge. It’s validation that your dog, who is the best dog in the entire world, is known and admired for being the best.

EggisFirstShow

After that you go back to the hotel and have a nap.

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Dog shows are weird and boring when you don’t win. Some other dog who is not nearly as adorable or good as your own dog gets the blue ribbon from the judge the next day, and you go home feeling like you drove two hours to the casino and lost everything on a bad bet in the first five minutes. Fortunately, on the days that Eggi didn’t win, her sister did extremely well, so we can keep hoping about next time.