Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sad Mad Dog

"Nelly seems sad. Do dogs get sad?"

This was the note that I left the dog-walker yesterday. He has been walking our guys on and off for about seven years, and he's a licensed vet technician, so I occasionally ask him questions about the dogs' health or well-being.

Instead of jotting an answer on the notepad as he usually does, he left a long and very sweet voice mail message. Yes, dogs get sad, or at least some canine equivalent. And yes, he had noticed it too - She seemed sad last week, and today she was just plain cranky and stubborn - "We had words," he said.

I've been working mostly at home since October, and the dog-walker was on a hiaitus until last month when I picked up a regular work commitment out in the world. He said the older dogs get, the less they like change, and she is probably upset that I'm away from home more. So she's going through a range of emotions, from sad to mad, but eventually she will be her old self again.

I certainly know that she doesn't like me gone. Enrico leaves for work five days a week and gets no more than a glance from Nelly, but I head into the shower and she has a fit. She clearly doesn't want me to leave her side, ever. Which is weird, because she's such an independent soul, not like Toby who loses all sense of his own identity if he's not in the presence of another being to absorb his boundless LOVE.

To make matters worse, I changed her favorite piece of furniture. She's napped up on the new daybed once or twice, but is clearly still displeased. I have heaped change upon change on her. And so she's sad.

And mad. Saturday we bathed the dogs, and she was pissed. She never likes baths, but usually practices nonviolent noncooperation - a dramatic woe-is-me act, sitting when we want her to stand, refusing to shake at the right time, etc. But this time, we could feel the anger coming off her like a physical force. She clearly would have bolted without a firm grip to the neck (and believe me, you do NOT want a sudsy, 60-pound dog to escape the tub). Afterwards as we were drying her off, she was huffing and sputtering, as if speechless with rage. It was a strange kind of anger, very human, because dogs have canine ways of communicating regular dog anger - a warning growl, a snap, a fight - and this was none of that. Just a sense of overwhelming, frustrating emotion roiling through her soggy little body.

So it appears that I brought this on her by changing jobs and couches. I am sorry, little one. It had to happen. We'll all ride out the change together. Stick close to Toby - his boundless love is a balm for all ills.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It's all so tragically familiar

First, we were attacked by terrorists and the administration decided to bomb Afghanistan and oust the Taliban as its government, and hopefully find Ossama Bin Laden in the process. While not everyone thought this was a good idea, it was hard to argue with the ouster of the Taliban, which had basically turned half the population (the female half) into slaves imprisoned in their own homes. And Bin Laden had pretty much declared war on the US. Other countries joined in, so it seemed like a collective effort could be mounted to bring peace and stability to this terribly traumatized country.

But then it proved HARD, darnit. We didn't catch Bin Laden. But instead of buckling down and investing the resources necessary for the job, we decided to shift the blame elsewhere - it's Iraq's fault! Yeah, that's it. The terrorists are still winning because Iraq is helping them. So instead of focusing on the people who had declared their intention to harm us, and on helping the people of Afghanistan, we're going to distract everyone and move onto something new. Because starting things is always easier and more exhilarating than finishing them. Anyone who has ever taken on a home improvement project knows that. Demolishing the wall is fun! Putting up new sheetrock and mitering trim is tedious and slow.

So we trashed Iraq. But dammit, again, it turned out to be HARD. Who coulda guessed? Faced again with something hard, instead of buckling down to our responsibilities, let's deflect attention and blame again. It worked so well the last time we tried that! It's all Iran's fault. Iran is the cause of Iraq's instability, not the grossly incompetently planned and prosecuted US military action and occupation. So once again, let's just bounce on to the next thing, and leave the last one in tatters.

This is not good. This isn't a home improvement project we're talking about. It's the world. How many more countries are we going to go through before somebody finds a way to stop the madness? It's like some kind of sick ponzi scheme, borrowing blame from one country to pay off the blame-debt left on the last one.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Here goes

I find that my reluctance to blog about my new job puts a damper on blogging in general, because these are the things in my head these days. So I'm going to try to tiptoe respectfully into the fray, with some boundaries, and see what happens.

Basically, in my new job I work for a bunch of people who want to make the world a better and more just place, and have decided they need a part-time staff person to help them do that. They have time and money to put behind this, but they need organizing help. The actual portfolio is quite open. That's one of the first parts of the job - Of all the many ways the world could be made better, which ones do you want to tackle?

It's daunting, because there are a LOT of ways the world could be better. It could run the gamut from environmental stewardship, to feeding and housing people here in our community, to tax policy, to world peace. And everything in between. I don't have an office or a phone or a computer yet, but I've already gotten enthusiastic suggestions regarding fair trade coffee, Native American burial grounds, encircling Green Lake with a ring of peaceful people on the upcoming anniversary of the war, pesticide-free zones, and fundraising for a microfinance program in Central America.

I have been re-reading Saul Alinsky, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Moyer and - for the first time, oddly enough - the writings of Gandhi. How do a group of committed but busy people change the world? What are the necessary conditions? The nuts and bolts? How do you assess the conditions, to know whether it's the time for boycotts or lobbying? How do you nurture ideas and passion to arise from people, yet still harness them with some method and strategy? How do these things take root?

How did it come to pass that middle-class French people began sleeping in tents in the streets of Paris, alongside their homelessness compatriots? How did this swell to such a movement that it brought about a legally enforceable right to housing for the whole country? What tipped the issue, the people, to the point of such momentum? These are the things I think about.

It's going to be an interesting ride.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The perfect daybed, snubbed

Well it sure has been busy down here. The perfect daybed did in fact arrive, and I spent much of the weekend reconfiguring the office/guest room, making it ready for my sister's visit and also just more pleasant and functional as an office. I'm getting curtains altered for an impossibly small sum of money at one of the many Asian-run tailor shops nearby, and then the space will be pretty well done.

We gave the old loveseat - seen in so many pictures of the dogs, e.g. below - to friends for their kids' playroom. The kids were very excited to have their "own" couch, and fell upon it with love as if it were a new member of the family.

I knew the dogs would miss it, because it is soft and very low to the ground and has been their little nest for many years. I figured the new one would be a fair trade, because while it's not quite so soft, and it's a little higher off the ground, it's bigger. It offers more room to spread out, and it's still not as high as a real bed. Toby has embraced this perspective, after he and Enrico gave it a vigorous field test during a long nap on Saturday.

Nelly, on the other hand, is having none of it. We've coaxed her up there a few times, and she just circles, pawing gingerly with her feet, like the Princess searching for any signs of a Pea. And then - finding a pea, or perhaps many of them, she hops right off. Last night Enrico and I both curled up there to read, with Toby, thinking perhaps we might encourage her up. Like when you encourage a recalcitrant child to eat by trying the strained yams yourself, saying "Mmmm, yummy!" But Nelly wouldn't even come in the room. She sat out in the darkened hallway, silently watching our warmly lit tableau from afar, her eyes glowing accusingly like some specter from an Edgar Allen Poe story.

Crazy damn dog.