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Tonight, we had to say goodbye to a very dear friend. Doctor Watson, our 10-year old Border Collie / Australian Sheppard mix, had to be put to sleep. For the past few months he had been suffering from a variety of digestive issues. One of the vets we spoke with suspected a canine variant of Crohn’s disease. Whatever the case, none of the treatments he received had any lasting effect. Having to euthanize a pet is an agonizing decision, but it’s one that most pet owners eventually have to face.
At some point last weekend, Lisa and I realized that the inevitable was within sight. I wanted to take him to one of his favorite walking and running places, for a final runabout, but he had been too weak to do much moving. I then considered getting him one of his favorite treats, as a parting gift, but he hadn’t been eating consistently for a few weeks. It was painful to see.
He spent most of his last day sleeping in his favorite spot on the living room floor, right below the skylight.
Such images stir up memories. When we first moved into our house, we promised Caitlin that we would get a dog. When I was young, I had a very good experience with a Border Collie mix, so we started searching for one. We acquired Watson from the Atlantic Region Central Border Collie Rescue, based near Richmond, back in 2009. He was roughly a year old at the time. When we went to the rescue farm to pick out a dog, we were greeted by several bouncy, rambunctious Border Collies. Some were entirely too rambunctious, and one was downright pushy.
Watson was different. Granted, like the others he came into the meeting pen and vied for attention; such behavior is common for Borders. But once he finished that, he settled down on the stairs and leaned his head against Lisa’s shoulder. A short time later, he sauntered over to Caitlin and did the same. Finally he came over to me, gave me several licks on the hand, then sat down next to me. It’s been said that dogs often choose their owner. Watson certainly choose us, and we were very lucky for it.
We couldn’t have asked for a better dog. He was as friendly and good-natured a dog as one could ever find, and he was always great company. His table manners were never the best, and he tended to flop down in the most inconvenient places possible. But at the same time he rarely begged, wasn’t an incessant barker, and he never got on the furniture (unless he was invited).
In many ways, Doctor Watson was the first one to realize that Michael had a life-threatening cyst on his left lung. When Michael came home as a baby, we had some extended family milling around, and some expressed concern over Watson’s aggressive sniffing at Michael’s left chest. When we learned that Michael had the cyst, we concluded that Watson must have sensed that something was wrong. (Perhaps he could smell the corrupted tissue?) Apparently he was trying to inform us.
The decision to put him to sleep was heartbreaking. But again, the various treatments we tried were not working. It was as if his entire digestive system just gradually stopped functioning. Given that he wasn’t eating at all consistently, there was a real chance that he would starve right in front of us. We had simply run out of options and time.
As I write this, I realize how much I’m going to miss the furry goofball.
After taking care of things at the vet’s office, Lisa started for home, while I took care of some errands in town. When it came time for me to grab a quick dinner, another strange memory surfaced.
A few years back, I brought home take out from Burger King, because we were all too tired for much else. Before I could distribute the food, however, Watson’s muzzle had descended into one of the bags. He managed to snarf up a double whopper with cheese, some chicken tenders, and an order of onion rings. He didn’t even have the decency to get a stomach ache later! I wasn’t happy with him. Neither was Lisa, because it was her sandwich that he had stolen!
Earlier this evening, I went into Burger King and ordered a double whopper with cheese, with onion rings. Such fare is unwise for a type-ii diabetic, and I suspect I will be reminded of that when I check my sugar before going to bed. But Watson would have loved it.
I looked at that big, greasy sandwich, and couldn’t help but smile before biting into it. This one is for you, Watson.
Lisa featured Watson in an article connected to her blog.
It’s official. I am sick and tired of guns.
I’ve talked about the Second Amendment before. It has been taken out of context for a very long time, the prevailing legal interpretation of it needs to be re-evaluated, and the bylaws related to it need to be updated. However, the social and political climate of this country is such that such changes aren’t likely to happen. (Well, at least it was unlikely until the past week or so.) I have had my fill of news stories describing mass shootings in various places around the country, and the apparent unwillingness of the government to really do anything about it.
In an earlier essay I described what I called the “price of freedom” for gun ownership. The second amendment clearly states that citizens have the right to carry weapons for self protection. Fine and good, says I. But that right comes with a price. If a nation is going to allow easy access to guns, and place few if any restrictions on the types of guns that can be acquired, then that nation is going to have problems related to gun owners. In the case of the United States, those problems have recently included people going on a rampage and killing people at random. The most recent of those victims were school children.
It’s a very simple equation, as far as I am concerned. Loose gun laws will bring about random acts of mass violence. That is the “price of freedom” related to gun ownership. I was intrigued to discover that I am not the only person who sees it this way. In fact, one of those people is political commentator Bill O’Riley. After the mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas last fall, he wrote about it on his blog, and it was in turn carried elsewhere. He also makes valid points about how polarizing the issue of gun control is, and that any real progress is unlikely as a result. He also seems to be of the belief that the rights guaranteed by the second amendment are so important as to be almost sacred, and that we need to simply accept mass shootings as part of everyday life. A lot of people, especially the NRA and their supporters, seem to believe that.
I, for one, do not. I can see the logic behind the argument, but I do not accept it. For starters, I can’t accept the “reasons” for gun ownership that are championed by the NRA and its supporters. Most of those arguments boil down to fear of the government. Granted, this was a legitimate concern for the founders of this country, because the European powers were eying the young United States the same way vultures eye a sick animal. Today, fear of a foreign invasion has diminished, but fear of an oppressive government is alive and well. Conservatives seem to think that the only form of oppressive government is a Liberal one, while Liberals fear a Conservative one. (Currently, given the historical pattern that President Trump is following, I think the Liberals are justified. But that’s another issue.) Personally, I believe that if the government is turning oppressive, it’s because we as a nation haven’t been using the tools we have to keep it under control. If you don’t like the direction a government is going, then vote for different leaders. And if they don’t improve the situation, then vote for a different group. And keep voting until we have a bunch of leaders who can “do it right.” If things get to the point where the government starts sending agents to people’s homes to confiscate their guns (or anything else), then it’s too late. Ownership of a gun, even a powerful one like a Colt AR-15, will only hold them off for a short time.
I could ramble on about the NRA, especially now that many people are labeling it a terrorist organization. But I don’t want to go down a road that others have already paved. I don’t have that kind of stamina tonight. I’ll let others make this point:
- The real reason Americans oppose gun control.
- Is the NRA a terrorist organization?
- Terrorists who want to buy guns have friends on Capitol Hill
Over the past two weeks several corporations have started severing ties with the NRA, because they have become so controversial. Some of these corporations, including Delta Airlines, are facing legal retaliation by Conservative lawmakers, who see this as a violation of the free market. I must be missing something here, because that sounds more like pettiness than concern for the market.
- For some conservatives, the dispute between the NRA and Delta isn’t about guns, it’s about the free market.
- A Georgia Republican’s threat to Delta.
- Boycotts Against NRA Have Backfire Effect, Galvanize Conservatives
Whenever there is a mass shooting, or some other gun-related tragedy, we hear all kinds of people offering up their “thoughts and prayers.” A lot of people are enraged over this, and are claiming that thoughts and prayers aren’t helping. I don’t entirely agree with that, because prayer can be a very powerful force. But, it works best in conjunction with other methods, and it can be an effective way to galvanize people. So don’t write it off entirely.
In the case of gun control, and speaking only for myself, I have given the issue a lot of thought, and I’ve even prayed about it. My thought process has concluded that we need tighter gun laws, and that doing so will answer a large number of prayers.
I’ll end this disjointed rant by mentioning the school protests that are taking place around the country. Many of them are school children, not unlike the ones who were caught in the massacre in Parkland, Florida. They are making it clear to lawmakers that they do not feel safe, and that they demand changes. This has been a dividing issue in the United States for several years, but thus far the lawmakers have lacked the will to do anything about it. I suspect there is more demand for tighter gun control than the gun proponents realize. This “student uprising” is a good indicator of that. These same school children will be of voting age within a decade. I strongly suspect that we start seeing stronger gun laws by that time, if not sooner.
- Outside NRA headquarters, hundreds gather in vigil and protest
- When Teens Protest, Race Matters
- Four reasons the NRA should fear the Parkland student survivors
To close this out, here are two other interesting takes on this sordid topic.
- Guitarist Caleb Keeter Says Seeing Vegas Shooting Changed His Mind On Gun Control
- Why gun nuts lie – I know from experience.
Perhaps the price of freedom, at least this particular freedom, has gotten too high.
Many families have special traditions for the holiday season, with heart-warming tales that are lovingly passed on from one generation to the next.
This is not one of those tales. (Though it could be considered a humorous anecdote.)
It happened during a Christmas season in the late 1970’s. I don’t remember exactly when, but my brother was still in the first stages of elementary school, which suggests the period of 1976 to 1979. The scene was in my childhood home town of Homer, New York, during one of the heavier winter snowfalls, about a week before Christmas. My family used actual trees at Christmas well into the 1980’s, so each year we would find a suitable pine tree to fill our living room. After the holidays, the remains of the tree would be put along the side of the house where it served as a shelter for birds and other animals until it was broken down for compost in the spring.
We generally tried to acquire a tree one week before Christmas, so that it would still have most of its needles through January 5th (Epiphany, or Twelfth Night). One of our “go to” places for a Christmas tree was a place called Forest Fisheries in Homer. It was a local business that sold gear for hunting and fishing, as well as various other sports that were popular in the region. It’s still in business, and now sells boats and all-terrain vehicles in addition to hunting and fishing equipment. During the Christmas season they sold trees (and may still), mostly from local tree farms. White pine and blue spruce grow in great quantities in upstate New York, so they were always in good supply.
This particular year we had a unique problem: our car was in repair. My father had arranged a carpool to his office at SUNY with a co-worker, my brother and I could both walk or bike to school, and there were some small local grocery stores in Homer at the time. So basic needs were not a problem. But how were we going to get a Christmas tree to the house without a car?
I had a small, wooden sleigh. roughly five feet in length (think of Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud”). Forest Fisheries was only four blocks from our home, so that year we decided to use that sleigh to transport a tree back to the house. So, during the driving snow, the four of us dragged that sleigh over to the place, picked out a nice blue spruce, loaded it up, then dragged it home.
Many people saw this display: a family of four, with the family dog happily marching along side, bringing home a Christmas tree on a wooden sleigh. It probably looked like something from a Currier and Ives print. For a few years after that we had people complement us on our “lovely family tradition.”
The truth is we didn’t enjoy it at all! The tree refused to stay lashed to the sleigh, and had to be re-tied at least twice. My brother ended up riding on the sleigh with the tree, holding it by the trunk to keep it in place. Pine needles fell out of his hair for days afterward. A layer of ice had formed under the snow in the streets of Homer, which made the sleigh hard to control, and footing very difficult. I fell down at least four times. Over the course of the trip, the snowfall went from moderate to heavier-than-usual, even by Central New York standards. Our dog Sparky, who was generally loyal to a fault, got sick of the whole thing and eventually ran ahead home.
We never did that again. After the ordeal, my parents decided that if we were ever in a situation like this again, we would order an artificial tree from the Sear’s catalog, and just hope it arrived in time. As it turned out, we never again were without a functioning car at Christmas, and we didn’t switch to an artificial tree until I was in college.
But even so, for many years after that people would ask us about our perceived family tradition of bringing home a Christmas tree on a sleigh, and how we would disappoint them. I now wonder how many romantic notions we managed to shatter. I now find that when I look at a Currier and Ives painting on a holiday card, and I see people riding in horse-drawn sleighs and what not, I have to ask myself if the people in that scene were really enjoying themselves, or if they were longing to be indoors in front of a warm fire!
Are they really having fun, or just indulging the viewer?
I want to present a poetic parody and piece of holiday humor that was created by my father and one of his co-workers at SUNY Cortland, back when I was just a lad. It’s crass, immature, and definitely kitsch.
Most people are familiar with the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. If you are not, it’s very easy to find. This parody is about Rudolph’s lesser known half-brother: Ambrose, the Amber-assed Antelope.
Ambrose the Amber-assed Antelope,
had a very shiny ass.
And if you ever saw it,
you would say it shined like glass.
All of the other antelope,
used to run so far away.
They said the ass of Ambrose,
could drown out the light of day.
Then one foggy Christmas eve,
Santa came to say:
“Ambrose with your ass so bright,
won’t you be my back-up light?”
Then how the others loved him,
and they shouted far and near:
Ambrose the Amber-assed Antelope,
you sure have a kick-butt rear.
(How is your childhood holding up? No serious damage, I hope?)
Incidentally, the first time this poem got any wide-spread exposure was in December of 1993, in the Christmas issue of the Journal of Onestar. That journal was, in many ways an early humor blog and was distributed via email every one to two weeks by an old friend of mine, Eric Schetley. I was part of his little band of sick and twisted writers, and my column was called The Bard Report. The Journal folded in the late 1990’s, largely because we ran out of jokes. But it’s whimsical, twisted and irreverent legacy lives on.
The pronghorn antelope was also found on Pinterest, and is associated with an artist named “Katelyn,” but I’m not sure of the pedigree beyond that. Whatever the case, I pretty thoroughly defaced it.