So, we had another rain last week. Almost four inches. Made one goofy dog quite happy. My brother, not so much…
So, we had another rain last week. Almost four inches. Made one goofy dog quite happy. My brother, not so much…
It all started when that mouse ran across the floor. But let me start with a little back story.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it many more times before I’m through. A Basenji is not your father’s Labrador. (I don’t know how many of you may remember an advertising campaign some years ago when Oldsmobile introduced their new model, “Alero,” with the catch phrase: “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.” I don’t know if they sold more cars with that ad or not, but I co-opted the phrase for my own purposes.) There are a number of good reasons why Labrador Retrievers are the most popular American Kennel Club registered dog breed – and Basenjis are not. I would never presume to imply that one breed of dog is superior to another. I love them all. And “blended” breeds as well. But there’s a reason I have had my little dynasty of Basenjis, instead of any other breed.
A lot of people don’t realize what a contrary individual I can be – most days I’m not that bad, so I might not seem like such an anarchist. But doing what I’m told runs a little counter to my nature, and doing what’s expected of me…oh, forget that. Small wonder I choose dogs that don’t follow orders all that well, don’t engage in typical “doggy” behaviors (like barking), and tend to like to sit back and watch quietly while everyone around them is in uproar.
My second Basenji (and my first male of the breed) was like the uber Basenji. Boomer was the pick of his litter, (the breeder called him her “Clark Gable dog”) destined for great things in the show ring, which would have meant I never would have met him. But he was born insane, and at four months of age he was engaging in extremely risky behavior – leaping onto and off of the dog houses that belonged to his Gordon Setter kennel mates. He ended up with a broken humerus bone, and in a body cast for eight weeks. At the end of which he promptly repeated the behavior…and the injury. By the time the second cast came off, he had gotten so used to running around on three legs that he continued to do so. As a result, his left front leg was always about an inch and a half shorter that his right. He was one crooked little dog.
He was two years old when I met him. It was the first time I ever experienced love at first sight.
After he came to live with me, I discovered some of his other disarming behaviors. Once when I was sitting at my computer and he was sitting next to me (one of the rare times when he wasn’t getting “into something”) I popped a piece of chocolate into my mouth. As I chewed on my chocolate, I looked down and said something to the dog, as he leaned against my shin. He melted. That’s the only way I can describe it. The smell of chocolate on my breath undid him. He just slid to the floor. And then he rolled on my foot. It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen a dog do. When I was a kid, my dachshund used to roll on dead lizards. Boomer was more discriminating. If I put styling mousse in my hair, he’d try to roll on my head.
Basenjis, like most normal dogs, do the “play bow,” lowering their front ends to the floor while they keep their butts elevated. Most normal dogs wag their tails when they do this. Not so Basenjis. They are not big on tail-wagging. More on that later. Boomer had his own variation of the play bow. He would put his head down on the floor between his front legs, like he was hiding his eyes. Then he would flop over on one shoulder (with his butt still in the air), and rapidly “dig” with his front feet. Sometimes he would bite at the carpet at the same time. People who didn’t know better would sometimes ask if he was all right. “Of course he’s not all right! He’s a Basenji!” I never actually had to say that. I usually just shrugged.
Both of my female Basenjis did normal play bows, even to the point of wiggling their tails a bit. They were always more emotionally demonstrative than the boys, even though Boomer and Ramses were/are what you’d call “leaners,” leaning against my leg while I pet them. Ramses, however, does the bow exactly like his Great Uncle Boomer. (The Old Guy was too stiff and creaky by the time he came to live with us to do much bowing.)
That brings us back to the mouse.
There was a time when I was living in Kentucky in an old mobile home parked up a “holler” on a farm. Quite rustic. The place had sat vacant for a while before I moved in, with Boomer, and a whole community of mice had taken up residence. Boomer set out to decimate that population. We lived there less than a year, but he racked up six kills over the course of just a few months – when I was watching. He had the run of the house when I was at work, so I don’t know how many he may have dispatched while I was away.
I always knew when he was on the trail of a mouse, not just because he would suddenly try to wedge himself under the stove or between the refrigerator and the wall, but because he would start wagging his tail. It was the only time I ever saw him wag it. Hunting apparently made him twitchy. Or more twitchy than normal. I always found it amusing, although I was a little hurt that seeing me was never motivation enough to cause him to wag his tail.
Of course, he wanted to eat the mouse, once he caught it, and it was an increasing struggle for me to get the mangled body out of his mouth. (Mice carry all kinds of nasty diseases, in spite of being a good source of protein. I didn’t want him coming down with something bubonic.) But, of course, Boomer being Boomer, he came up with a way around me. He’d catch the mouse, one quick crunch, then swallow. A few days later he’d yak up the skeleton and a few other undigestible bits for me to clean up. Charming. I did so love living in the country.
Where I live now is every bit as rural, though not quite as wild as that place. The woods don’t come right up to my back door here, but the mice do still get in. One reason I adopted the “extra dog” was so she’d help keep the rodent population around the house under some sort of control. She’s apparently been slipping.
And these mice are bold. They charge straight across open spaces to get from point A to point B, instead of sticking close to the walls, like they’re “supposed” to. One morning last week as I sat at my computer, I saw motion out of the corner of my eye, and looked up in time to see one of the little bastards go streaking across the floor headed for the living room. Almost at the same time, I realized Ramses was no longer lying in his “spot” in front of the second couch – where I could keep an eye on him from my computer chair. I walked in the living room and saw his back end sticking out from under the end table closest to the end of my brother’s couch – underneath which had probably been the mouse’s destination.
Ramses had dived under the end table in hot pursuit, but the couch had an even lower clearance, and he couldn’t cram himself under that. He would not budge. I had to grab his back legs and drag him out from under the table, then confine him to his crate to keep him from going right back in. Absolutely channeling Uncle Boomer.
You want to know something else, friends and neighbors? That tail was a’waggin’.
That’s my boy!
We learn in physics class that “systems” tend to become more and more disordered as time goes by. Just glance in a teenager’s bedroom from time to time to get an idea of the truth of that law. Sometimes a system can stay in a more or less constant state for a time (called equilibrium) before disorder (called entropy) sets in again. I have observed these phenomena while walking my dog.
People who own Basenjis especially are aware that dogs are geniuses of disorder. They find ways to introduce entropic cascades into any setting imaginable. They’re wizards.
To illustrate how the laws of physics apply to dog walking, I made a few sketches. They’re pretty crude, but you’ll get the point. In Figures 1 and 2 we see a system more or less in equilibrium, usually maintained by a death grip on the leash (and not a whole lot of slack in it). Figure 2 actually shows the system teetering on the brink of failure, as evidenced in Figure 3, where random entropy has been introduced.
In Figure 4 I illustrate the normal way humans walk, compared to the normal way a dog walks if there’s any slack at all in the leash. The X marks the spot where the dog’s nose will become glued to the ground about 3 nanoseconds before your foot is due to arrive. This is called particle collision, and it results in massive release of energy — usually screaming and swearing — and generation of new and strange particles — birds, bunnies, and squirrels all taking flight from the area.
And that’s all there is to know about particle physics.
Ever since January – when I learned the results of my most recent back x-rays and was waiting to see what the MRIs would reveal, and after that was waiting on the appointment with the neurosurgeon – I’ve been a little preoccupied, to say the least.
I came home from Dallas on Friday feeling a sense of relief, like my life could start to get back to normal now. Only. What the heck is normal, anyway? For me, normal includes pain and stiffness, frequent reminders that all is not right with my back. The ability to move freely and carelessly is something I had to give up so long ago that I don’t even have a good working memory of it. Other people in my age group may be experiencing the same thing, but many of them won’t have to deal with that loss for years, yet.
Then there’s my household. I live with my brother. Who would have seen that coming – ever? It’s not so unusual in this economy for grown kids to still be living at home with their parents, or to move back home when they finish college. But this just seems a little odd. Of course, the circumstances aren’t that bizarre. My (divorced) brother was living with my dad after our mom died, taking care of him, and I (after my husband dumped me) moved back home to help him out. Daddy died right before the economy tanked – well, he actually died the week Hurricane Ike moved in, but right after that, everyone was broke. In light of all that, continuing to live in the same house as my brother makes sense.
And last, but oh, SO not least, I have a Basenji. In fact, I’ve had five Basenjis. Basenjis are not normal dogs. In fact, to think “normal” and “Basenji” at more or less the same time, puts considerable strain on one’s brain. I’ve had to stop several times while typing these sentences, to decompress. I’ve broken out in a sweat.
So I guess I can’t really expect “normal” to stop by here that often. But that’s okay, I think weird can be the new normal.
Ever since I read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and saw the movie, I sensed a kinship between Velociraptors and Basenjis, like maybe they shared a common immediate ancestor. Not exactly, of course, but on some philosophical level. There’s the scene at the end of the movie when the ‘raptor attacks the T. rex — without even pausing to take a breath and think maybe it would be a bad idea.
When I walk out the front door with my current “mini-raptor” I have to make sure I have a good grip on the handle of the flexi-leash and my thumb on the brake. There’s always the chance that one of these might be driving by…
Originally, the breeder, Susan, suggested I cook a pot of rice and mix in some velveeta cheese product. Yum. He loved that stuff. But it seemed like I was cooking ALL THE TIME — FOR THE DOG. I don’t even cook for myself if I can help it.
Then I saw a segment on the Rachael Ray show about dog nutrition, and about how much sugar and calories there are in the dog treats that we all tend to give our dogs way too many of. The vet that was talking suggested using things like black beans and chick peas instead. And that gave me an idea. I figured I could mix a can of black beans with a can of chick peas and add a little to the Puppy’s food every day for a little extra protein and some flavoring, and it has made us all happy. It’s easy to fix, and he certainly likes eating it, judging by the hysterics he has while I’m mixing his bowl of food every day, and by how shiny his coat is.
So here’s what I do. I open cans of black beans, chick peas, and green peas. I drain all of the black bean juice into a measuring cup and add enough from the other cans to make about a cup of liquid. Then I finish draining the two cans of peas into the sink. I put the black beans in a flat-bottomed bowl and mash them, to thicken the mixture, then I stir in the chick peas and green peas. I divide the mixture into two or three containers and put a couple of them in the freezer and one in the refrigerator. When I fix his food I put a few spoonfuls in his bowl and microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off. Then I mix in his dry food and his allergy medicine. And since I tend to name everything… Beandog Food. Which makes the Puppy a Beandog. As well as a Basenji. Which means he’s odd, as well as crazy. Just how I likes ‘em.
A not-so-scientific study.
I sometimes wonder about the effects of domestication on dog behavior. I mean to say I wonder idly — not seriously. Because seriously, sometimes dogs are so funny, I wouldn’t want to change them. Mine have always been invaluable boredom-alleviators, as well as entertainers and anti-depressants. Speculating on why they do the things they do provides me with hours of amusement. Reading a book on dog behavior by some expert would just spoil the whole exercise.
Take nest-building. The Old Guy, of course, was Chief High Nest-Builder and Blanket Wrestler. He would scrunch his blanket all over the living room floor in an effort to get it wadded to his exacting specifications. I never knew where he would end up — I always had to just go out of my way as much as necessary not to disturb him when I left the room.
Now it’s The Puppy’s turn. He used to be satisfied with his blanket folded neatly on the floor next to the sofa — truthfully, he used to be satisfied with curling up on the carpet, but the end of winter was pretty chilly here, so I thought he might like a little more insulation. (And, yes, I may be the only person on the planet with basenjis who don’t live on my furniture. When I moved in with my dad and brother, the dogs had to learn a whole new set of rules — The Puppy, of course, grew up as a floor dog.) After months of curling himself up neatly on the folded blanket, said Puppy one day started channeling The Old Guy. He wasn’t happy with a merely rumpled blanket. He had to get it all the way into a tight little wadded-up bundle. Which got me wondering — do dogs in their “natural state” go to such extremes? You would think that beyond a certain amount of “fluffing,” the return on energy expended would bottom out. But I don’t know. Or maybe I’ve just had some especially particular nest fluffers. Or maybe the domestication process — all that selective breeding for being nice to people and not eating them and all — sort of shorted out a few circuits and now they just don’t know when they’re “finished” with their nest. I wonder if I could get funding to do a study. Hmm.
This is the time of year when I would like nothing better than to be able to live on a nothing-but-ice-cream diet. I was reading an article on The Blogess this morning, and had one of those laughing melt-downs. You know, where you start out with everything kind of contained with just some shoulder jiggling, and then you’re wheezing and snorting and shrieking and making sobbing sounds and the tears are running down your face and you about wet your pants. One of those. I had forgotten how funny her articles are. I can’t read them every day.
Anyway, after I got myself back under a semblance of control, I was soggy — all the usual soggy places. I’ll spare you the details. Obviously, being post-menopausal does not guarantee no more hot flashes. Or it could be my trying-to-save-on-the-electric-bill thermostat setting and the house being 81 degrees. Whatever. Bring on the ice cream.
Actually, I think ice cream makers are making more of an effort to include more food groups in their flavors these days. For instance, I recently found a flavor called “Peanut Butter Panic,” that is just bonkers good. Of course it has a serving of dairy. Then there is the protein food group represented by the peanuts in the peanut butter. And of course there’s the chocolate food group. All you need to do is throw on some frozen peas, maybe some blueberries and some All-Bran or something, and you’ve got a complete meal in one bowl of cold, creamy goodness!
I have gone through phases in my adult life with and without caffeine. I’ve come to the conclusion that some caffeine is required, since I’m basically a morning person but am frequently a groggy morning person. And I like coffee. I even like the decaf kind. With a caveat… I like it to taste like ice cream. And I usually like it ice cold.
I started keeping my coffee in the refrigerator earlier this summer when I would sit at my computer on a typical, muggy, central Texas summer morning (even the A/C didn’t prevent all perception of mugginess), drinking my freshly dripped coffee, and I would start sweating buckets. Seriously. Buckets. Because hot weather plus hot coffee equals hot flash equals buckets of sweat. Buckets. What am I — stupid? I thought. Put the frakking coffee over some frakking ice. Then I came up with the brilliant idea that I could make my own coffee, separately from my brother’s normal coffee, and I could have flavors! like caramel truffle and chocolate velvet. My brother doesn’t like his coffee to taste like ice cream, so he isn’t interested in sharing my flavored coffee. So I make my own pot of coffee and pour it into a bottle to keep in the fridge. Then every morning I can pour some in a tumbler and add some sweetener and half and half, and have a nice, cold pick-me-up to start my day with.
Only this morning it was chilly. So I put my cold coffee in a mug and microwaved it hot. But adding the half and half cooled it off to almost room temperature. I’m running the furnace, after all. It’s not like it’s 53 degrees in here. And I’m not fond of hot beverages unless I actually need to drink something hot to get warm.
I’m about to make a point with this. Wait for it…
I was reading Havi Brooks’s recent post over at The Fluent Self blog about being your own, authentic self, dammit, and not apologizing to anyone about it. And I thought about my cold coffee habit and my flavored, ice-cream-tasting coffee habit, and how my brother always sneers at flavored coffee (and the people who drink it, I fear), and I thought, you know, this is me, dammit. Yeah, maybe I have a few screws loose, but they are not in the area of coffee drinking. Ever since I started drinking my coffee cold in the mornings, I have fewer hot flashes all day. So there. Dammit.
This here is Trigger. At the moment he belongs to Kelso Mules in Murray, Kentucky. They were kind enough to let me borrow the picture and edit in the parking sign that my friend took a picture of in Austin. The minute I saw this picture of Trigger, I knew he was the one I wanted to star in my little comedy. I don’t know how many of those signs there are around Austin, or other places, but I think it would be great fun to hitch a nice looking mule like ol’ Trigger to every one of them.
Trigger is for sale, by the way, and the Kelso Mules folks have other nice mules for sale. I wish I could afford one. I might even ride it once in a while.