Archive for the ‘Animals & Pets’ Category.

How To Kill Your Dog With Stupidity and Love (But Mostly Stupidity)

We moved to rural North Carolina in August 2009. A visit with the realtor to the property that July foreshadowed our tenure here: We found a stray dog while viewing the property and the realtor adopted it. Since then we have handled approximately 25 abandoned animals of various breeds who made it onto our property or were found near it. We found homes for most of these animals. Spay/neuter is such a simple concept to me, but evidently not around here, and people continue to abandon their animals on or near my property.  Although I have done my best and achieved successful placements for many of them, I made a series of fatal errors with one dog. I am writing this in the hope that others will learn from my mistakes. SK

I am an avid animal lover and have always thought of myself as a good animal care-giver. But yesterday I had to put a dog to sleep who suffered because of my errors in thinking and judgment. I am writing this in the hope that I can atone for this dog’s premature death by preventing someone from making the same mistakes I have made in her care.

This was the dog. Her name was Blue. She was a blue heeler I rescued as a six week old puppy less than a year after moving to North Carolina.

Blue died on the floor of a veterinary clinic as I petted and her apologized for causing her death. What follows is a list of the mistakes I made during her five years of life.

1. Know the Common Behaviors of Your Breed. When I rescued Blue I knew little about heelers. Heelers are working dogs and as such they need a lot of attention, activity and exercise – preferably involving herding animals such as sheep, cows or goats. They tend to being solitary and do not integrate well into a larger pack unless they are dominant.

Blue came into a situation with large, older dog who would dominate all the others including Blue. Blue never integrated into the hierarchy and was always challenging her place, picking fights with beta dogs, some of which would escalate into full-blown free-for-alls. Since she had nothing to herd, she often ran down and nipped at the little dogs who often would fight back, causing a crisis. My mistake here was not recognizing Blue’s nature and finding a more suitable home for her right away. Instead I tried medicating her with drugs and hoped she would calm down, another mistake. Medication cannot mask traits that have been selectively bred into the dog’s breed.

2. Do Not Attribute Human Emotions or Feelings To The Dog. When I found a Pit Bull/Boxer mix starving on my property and took her in to foster her, her presence caused one of the worst dog fights I have ever had to break up. Several of the dogs were injured including one seriously, and I received several deep punctures on my hands and arms that took weeks to scar over and heal. I mistook Blue’s change in behavior, of hiding under the deck or refusing to go out on walks with the rest of the dogs as jealousy or anger towards the new addition.

Dogs can’t talk to us, and one of the few ways of communicating they have with us to change their pattern of behavior. Blue liked the walks through the woods, and she didn’t usually hide under the deck. These were clues that I should have picked up on but didn’t because I thought Blue was acting petulant towards the new dog.

As you no doubt understand dogs are not 13 year old girls. They cannot act petulantly. What I missed was that Blue was sick, seriously ill with canine diabetes. Canine diabetes does not manifest itself the way human diabetes does. Although Blue was slightly overweight dogs do not get diabetes from being overweight the way humans do. I’m still trying to learn about this disease although it is rare (1 out of 200 dogs) and too late for Blue. But the see-sawing blood sugars would explain why Blue would feel fine one day and not the next. This wasn’t her being temperamental; it was her manifesting the signs of her disease.

So please, resist the temptation to look upon your dog as a little human. They aren’t, and my failure to realize that caused me to miss the signs of canine diabetes.

3. Have Yearly Wellness Checks. I have no idea why I let these slip. About two years ago my old vet left his practice and I was forced to find another vet. Although I kept up with their rabies shots and brought the dogs in whenever I was sure they were sick, I got out of the habit of bringing them in every year even when they were well. Blue had just been to the vet in early May to get her rabies updated and stay in the kennel while we were away. A simple blood panel would have found Blue’s canine diabetes much earlier, and there is no doubt that had I done a wellness check Blue would not only be with us today, but much of the suffering my animals have gone through because of her behavior would have been avoided.

4. Protect Against Rare But Devastating Diseases.  It is better to protect against extremely rare but devastating events than commonly occurring but non-life threatening ones. Take for example cell phone insurance. Many people pay $10/month plus a $200 deductible to insure against the loss or destruction of their $600 iPhone. For many people $10/month will get you term life insurance that will protect your family financially should you die yet few do so figuring the odds are against them dying. This is true; the odds favor healthy young Americans living to their late 70s. But the odds of Blue developing canine diabetes was 1/200, and the odds of me dying within the next five years are 1/100. If the outcome of these events are so terrible, then we should work hard to mitigate the damage or perhaps even prevent them from happening as best as we can.

In the case of animals this means getting vaccines beyond the mandated rabies vaccine. If you can get a jab to prevent your dog or cat from getting sick then do so. Same thing with heartworm preventative meds. For about $5/month you can protect them from heartworms, parasites that can seriously shorten their lives and run up huge vet and drug bills should your pet come down with them. If you are willing to spend $10/month to save a few hundred bucks on a smart phone that will be obsolete in two years, how can you not justify spending the same on your pet who will share your life for the next five, ten or maybe even fifteen years? It’s a small price to pay to avoid the heartbreak of a chronically ill dog.

And speaking of vaccines this also applies to human beings. I have never turned down a jab for my son or myself, but recommend you discuss vaccines with your doctor and avoid the Internet if you have concerns about them.

5. Animals Need More Than Love. Although caring for her wasn’t easy, and she often made me angry, I loved Blue. She was a devoted companion and would follow me or the Wife anywhere, sticking close by instead of running off like the others. In the morning at the same time everyday she would wake us up with her “tap dance routine,” her little excited dance telling us that it was time for us to wake up and let her outside. Occasionally I would sing to her, taking Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” and changing the lyrics to “Blueberry Beret.” I had hoped that by working extra hard to find homes for the Pit Bull/Boxer mix and a beagle she always fought with that we would make her life here more comfortable and happier here. Unfortunately she died a day after placement of my last foster dog.

Those actions were motivated by love for the dog, but had nothing to do with reality. It wasn’t a psychological issue she was suffering from but a physical ailment, canine diabetes, that by the time we recognized the symptoms it was too late to do anything about. Proper animal care requires using one’s mind to see the situation clearly, not relying upon ones heart to explain reality. We did the latter, and the dog is dead.

I have no excuses and can only hope that by sharing my experience others may avoid my mistakes and be spared the grief and self-loathing that comes with failing a beloved pet.

There Is No Escaping Yourself

So it’s the day after your shoulder surgery, and one of your dogs is sick so you take it to the vet. You learn the dog is critically ill but makes it through the night. The next day your son is due to graduate that evening, having passed through the public school system without any sort of academic achievement.

The dog rallies in the morning and everyone is hopeful including the vet who promises to call if she takes a turn for the worse. I receive that call at 1pm and within minutes I’m lying on a floor next to the dog who once was the little puppy I had rescued from a one eyed farmer with too many un-altered dogs and not enough sense, sobbing and apologizing to the dog for being tricked into believing she wasn’t that sick. She had only been out of sorts for a day or two and I had figured it was just a stomach bug passing through the house. During those days I had found the early videos of her running around the house and yard as a fuzzy little puppy, and I remembered that puppy as I watched the pink fluid enter her veins ending her life.

What a failure I am, claiming to love animals and failing them when they need me the most. I tell the wife and son. The former is cold and distant, the latter in his own happy world with his friends all lit up with graduating high school and it barely registers. I spend the rest of the afternoon sounding professional when the phone is on, crying when it’s not.

That evening the Wife and I ride to the graduation in silence. We sit on metal seats embedded into the concrete bleachers, and within minutes my shoulder is singing with pain. The ceremony begins and my son’s principal takes the podium and jokes about all the things he will remember about this graduating class. He mentions my son by name, saying he’ll never forget him being late everyday to school and the audience laughs. I turn to the Wife and she is horrified.

Have I died on the operating table and gone to Hell? I wonder for a moment. The physical pain of the shoulder, the mental pain of an intellectual parent failing to raise an academically gifted child, and the emotional pain of failing to act in time to save one of my animals all swirl together as I look down and watch the ants crawling between my feet.

“There is no escaping yourself,” the wife says, breaking the silence on the ride home. Time slows down and I can almost hear G-d laughing at me.  No, there is no escape. No escaping the moment, the pain the sick stench of failure.

No escaping yourself.

Shoutdown

We’ve lived under the Obama administration for 6 years, 2 months. During that time we have witnessed a world turned upside down, one where our allies are treated like our enemies and our enemies are courted. Alliances that can be measured in lifetimes have been ignored, such as the “special relationship” with the UK. Others like Israel have been actively undermined. Even the Canadians have suffered at the hands of this administration as it has pivoted to China and kept the Keystone Pipeline mired in indecision and red tape.

Russia annexes the Crimea, the first territorial annexation in Europe since the Third Reich. It assassinates and jails the critics of its leadership. It invades Ukraine and even shoots down an airliner full of Europeans without consequences. Russian propaganda broadcasts throughout Russia unopposed, developing an ultranationalism straight from a work of fiction or video game. Critics of this coddling are accused of Cold War era thinking, and the administration continues to engage with the regime even as the US people view it as the single greatest threat.

The Obama administration leaves Biden to negotiate the status of forces agreement with Iraq, wasting the blood and treasure expended during the Bush administration. Any physics student or poli-sci major can tell you that nature abhors a vacuum, so Iran takes over in the East and an Islamic Death Cult rises in the West. An ignominious Vietnam-like defeat would have been preferable as Obama wouldn’t have been able to interfere in the region as he has done so. No love letters to Iran and certainly no attempt to overthrow the only friend we have in the region.

Leading from behind a harmless loon is attacked in Libya, leading to a failed state in Libya and the death of our first ambassador in two generations. What difference does it make? Evidently none because there are no consequences for the man in the White House or his Secretary of State minion who orchestrated the affair, the latter of whom is measuring the Oval Office for drapes as the 4th Estate gives her a standing ovation.

In 2008 I worried we had elected Carter. It turns out we elected Nixon instead, although one with a press who would call modern-day duo of Woodward and Bernstein racist. When Nixon went to China the Right had no fear that he would sell out our country to the Communists, a political fact that made it into of all things a Star Trek movie. There is no such comfort with Obama’s obsession for a nuclear deal with Iran. The Mullahs can write any deal they want, chanting “Death to America” all the way to the Bomb.

The Obama administration took power, sneering at the apparent ignorance and failures of the previous administration. Yet this supposedly bright and intelligent group of people have done some incredibly stupid things, mistakes so bad they can only be made by extremely intelligent and ignorant people. Boko Haram in West Africa, al-Shabaab in East Africa, ISIS in North Africa and the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan in Middle East and Central Asia, Russia in Europe and Asia, China in East Asia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina and Venezuela in Central and South America. All these actors are stronger in the world today than they were 74 months ago. America and its allies are all weaker thanks to the efforts of this narcissist and his administration.

Can America survive the next 22 months, and if it can, will it have any allies left?

 

Stinkbug War: 2014

Just a note for you Internet denizens who are plagued by stinkbugs.

The infestation began about around Sept. 11 with the stinkbugs crawling on our screens, windows and siding. We set up indoor traps (lamps above pans of water with detergent in it) and I dedicated a shop vac to sucking them off the outside of the house. I put a small amount of water with non-t0xic detergent in the shop vac, and when it became full I dumped it into the mulch pile and turned the pile.

Current body-count so far: 3,000 estimated but they didn’t go down without a fight. They broke the shop-vac so I’m using an old handheld Shark from my workroom, and if that breaks I’ve got a new 6 gallon one in a box in my truck.

I just spent 15 minutes and sucked up 242. They absolutely love getting between the plastic dog houses and the deck. I scored about a third of the count there.

The horror… The horror…

Illegal Immigrants Are Not Dogs…

So why do we treat them worse?

I am actively involved in animal rescue. Over the course of my life I have rescued scores of animals, finding them forever homes when I could or keeping them as pets. The shelters are full of animals, most of which are facing death. Their crime? Having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I do what I can. I spay and neuter everything I get my hands on, provide them health care and a loving home until I find the right place for them, and treat them with the love and respect that Chance has denied them. I have more pets than most people would consider reasonable and my limit has been reached. What is that limit? My ability to provide love and attention to each one.  I know I’m at that limit because I have a young beagle who needs more love and attention than I can provide. I do my best, but the truth is she needs a home where she can be someone’s special girl.

I can’t rescue them all. I don’t rush down to the county “kill” shelter, throw open the cages, open the doors and let all the animals run free even though they are facing certain death staying where they are.

I also don’t force people to take care of pets they don’t want. I believe that one solution to the pet overpopulation problem is for more animal lovers to responsibly take on more animals, but I don’t demand they do so nor do I expect the government to intervene and force them to.

See where I’m going with this?

I have lived abroad and seen true poverty, so I am very sympathetic to those who are coming illegally into our country. I recognize that most of them are innocent men, women and children stuck in a cage facing death back home. Their crime? Having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are others who aren’t so innocent, as wild and untamed as the feral cats who plague our city parks.

Unlike pets the solution is not to spay and neuter them of course, and we can’t save them all – a fact that immigrant advocates seem to forget. What do we do?

Instead of dumping them on people who don’t want them, how about having them live with those who do. Everyone fighting for the immigrants to stay should open their homes to them just as I have the strays that cross my path. Help them take care of themselves here, learn English and find jobs to eventually become citizens instead of forcing them into shelters run by the government in neighborhoods where they are not wanted.

But the fact must be faced. We can’t save them all. America is not big enough; we have our own black, Hispanic, and white underclasses needing jobs and health care. What do we do?

Ultimately we will need to do some “Yankee Imperialism” to build countries in Central America that aren’t failed states run by goons on the payrolls of narcotics traffickers. That will require a lot of work on our part as a people who must learn that not all cultures are equal – that some are indeed better than others – but in the meantime those demanding the illegal immigrants stay should be opening up their homes and their own wallets, just as people who rescue animals do.

These are people. They deserve to be treated better than dogs. The sooner the immigration advocates realize this the better.

 

 

 

Recommended Life Skills From A Nobody

The following are what I consider to be life skills for everyone that you won’t see in the usual lists floating around the internet. Mastering just a few of these will improve your well-being as they have mine.

If you already know them, teach a friend or if you have kids, teach them. For specifics on how to do any of the following, Google and YouTube are your friends.

Now you might ask, “Why should I listen to an old fool like you? You aren’t famous. You aren’t rich. You’re really a nobody.”  I admit I’m old and often foolish and while I may not be rich I am comfortable. As for being a nobody, I’m somebody to the animals I’ve rescued and care for, to the Kid and to the Wife. Their opinions about me matter more to me than the number of  readers I have of this blog, Twitter followers or Facebook friends. Besides my advice won’t kill you, unlike Jenny McCarthy’s.

As MM catches in the comments there is no particular rank to these skills. They’re pretty much in the order they came to me, and this being an easily editable blog post, I’ll continue adding to the list. Enjoy!

1. Safely change a flat tire. Nothing screams “Moron!” like driving on the shoulder with a flat-tire, turning a $10 problem into a $200 one. And while I recommend AAA, there’s no reason to call them for a flat unless you are a woman. I’ve driven half a million road miles and have never seen a woman change a flat. Evidently it’s something that men can do that women can’t, like pee standing up (although I have seen women do that.) You’ll know we’ve achieved true equality of the sexes when you see women changing flat tires. Sexist? Yes, but you don’t need much upper body strength to fix a flat.

2. Learn how to do laundry. Hint: Like likes like. Oh, and read the label (if you haven’t cut it out already).

3. Be able to prepare and cook at least one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner. The key? The only time you use high heat is to boil water. Everything else cooks best with moderate heat. Always keep a jar of pasta sauce, box of spaghetti and a bag of frozen meatballs on hand. Within 20 minutes you will have dinner for two.

4. Learn how to use a multimeter, specifically how to measure resistance. I’ll admit I’ve used multimeters for a long time but only figured out how to measure resistance last week. It’s like using a hammer for years to pry nails up and then realizing that gee, you can beat them into the wood too. Seriously it was a revelation. Once I learned this I was measuring conductivity of everything in the house. (Tip: Cats are NOT conductive, at least at the amperage contained in your average multimeter.) Bad fuse? You’ll know instantly. Short somewhere? Your multimeter will help you find it.

5. Balance a checkbook. Learn how to handle cash flow, especially when using checks and maintaining a small balance.

6. Floss. Your dental hygienist is right. Flossing makes a big difference. Not only does it keep your teeth clean, it helps maintain your health. And it makes kissing bearable.

7. Learn how to correctly iron a shirt. In today’s casual business environment of “wrinkle-free” shirts and slacks, you might think this is anachronistic. Think again. Even the so-called wrinkle-free shirts look positively frumpy compared to a well-ironed shirt. It’s a small detail that says a lot about you to your colleagues and will be noticed, even if you are a jeans/t-shirt type at heart. Every decent motel contains an ironing board and an iron. If you are traveling on business, use them.

8. Do your own taxes. Using software is okay, but before you go to H&R Block or let your brother who is studying accounting do them for you, do them yourself. Doing so will teach you your relationship to society. You will see learn that the rebate check you receive after you file isn’t a gift: it’s the money taken from you throughout the year that’s leftover after the government takes its cut.

9. Sew a basic stitch. Buttons pop off at inopportune times, and small tears can often be handled with a few stitches. Sewing kits tend to breed in drawers. Learn how to use them.

10. Never run out of gas. If you live in a hurricane prone area it’s a good idea to never fall below half a tank during hurricane season. If you can’t think far enough ahead to avoid running out of gas you probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place.

11. Learn how to say “No, thanks.” This is one of those general life rules that should be common sense but isn’t. Learning how to say “no” without causing offense or leading to intimidation is one of those skills that once learned can save you from a lot of grief. Is a guy hitting on you wanting to buy you a drink? Say it politely. Are your buddies offering you one for the road? Don’t take it. The boss offering you another project to take on to your overwhelming work load? Say, “Not until I get some bandwidth. As soon as I finish (X project) I’ll be happy to take it on.” No is one of the shortest yet most important words in the English language. Use it to avoid trouble.

12. Make being skeptical instinctive. Everyday we receive more marketing offers than ever before promising us endless opportunities and joy. None of them actually deliver. You are a target, a walking wallet to an assortment of sundry, often shady enterprises. Maintaining your skepticism will help you avoid being scammed.

13. Pay your bills on time. Preferably a couple of days before they are due. Get in the habit and you’ll avoid late fees, collection calls, dings to your credit rating.

14. Safely handle a firearm. Guns are not everyone’s cup of tea, but you’d be surprised at how tasty the tea is once you try a sip. There’s a  mystique about guns thanks to the anti-gun media, and it’s one that isn’t based on reality. The reality is that like any tool they have their uses. Knowing your way around a handgun or rifle de-mystifies them. They are tools with a purpose, and just as you wouldn’t think about playing with a running chain-saw (at least while you’re sober) if you treat guns with the same respect you will have nothing to fear from them. As an ex anti-gun person who is now a card-carrying member of the NRA, take my word for it. Even if you decide you do not want a firearm in your house, learning about them will help you make an informed decision.

15. Learn a poem by heart. I’m not sure why it’s important, but trust me, it is. In college I memorized Theodore Roethke’s I Knew a Woman, and every time I recite that poem something stirs deep within me.  It’s not meant to be explicable, just experienced. “She moved in circles, and those circles moved.” Delightful!

16. Avoid socializing with emotional vampires. I first saw that term used years ago in a Harlan Ellison book where he recommended this, and experience has taught me the wisdom in this statement. You have to recognize that there are people you can’t save. Often these people don’t want to be saved or merely exist by feeding on the kindness shown to them by their friends and family members. In the end they will suck you dry of your money, your love, or your mental well-being, leaving you a drained corpse while they move on to their next victim. Whether it’s a family member or friend, run don’t walk away from these people and cut them out of your life.

17. Memorize the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. Not only does it sound charlie-oscar-oscar-lima when you say it, it also helps people understand you when you’re talking on the phone. I find it ironic that while telephones have improved and become more mobile thanks to the invention of the cell phone and its evolution into the smartphone, call quality hasn’t improved. If anything it’s gotten worse, so knowing the phonetic alphabet will help you order the right item on a website, or help guarantee your name is spelled correctly on a form.

18. Learn how to ride a motorcycle. Yes they are dangerous. According to a UK study motorcycles have 16 times the rate of serious injuries compared to cars. According to most motorcyclists though, they are at least 16 times more fun to ride. There is nothing quite like the joy of riding a motorcycle on the open road.  A motorcycle makes you feel a part of a landscape instead of feeling apart from it, puts you in it instead of seeing it through panes of safety glass in a steel cocoon. While I wouldn’t dream about using a motorcycle to commute to work with on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia, I’m glad I own one for the occasional times when I just want to escape. Oh, and another thing: You can’t multi-task on a motorcycle. Being on a bike forces you to enjoy the moment in a way a car cannot.

19. Keep a pet. Keeping a pet forces you to think about something else besides yourself. If you’ve never had a pet before start with something small and easy like a goldfish and work your way up. Seriously. Don’t immediately adopt that cute Jack Russell you saw outside the Petsmart; you have to work your way up to high maintenance animals like that. Oh, and never pay for a dog or cat unless its to cover spay/neutering or other vet costs. There is no shortage of these animals, and while I recognize that most breeders are decent people who care about animals, the reality is that the shelters are full of animals needing homes.

20. Live in a foreign country. Nothing teaches you about your own country like living outside of it. Sure you’ll learn about your host country, but you will become a window through which others see yours. You’ll be surprised at what they say and think about your country and your people, and you’ll gain a new perspective on what being a citizen of your country means.

21. Learn how to wait. Most of life isn’t exciting and the fact is you will spend a lot of time waiting. There are several kinds of waiting – waiting for the right man/woman to come into your life, waiting for better times… But the waiting I refer to here is of the more mundane variety such as what to do while waiting in line. The next time you are in line at the grocery store watch what others do while they wait. The majority fidget, checking their phones or the headlines on the tabloids. Hardly anyone relaxes or simply observes the world around them. I’ve been told that veteran soldiers become the masters of handling down times like waiting. They’ve been trained to use the free time to rest their minds, even sleep when possible, so that the next time things get exciting they will be mentally alert. When I’m feeling particularly Zen I like to practice mindful meditation, focus on my breathing and allow the world to happen around me as if I were a leaf on a pond. But since I suck at Zen I struggle just like everyone else. Like all of these items on this list I am learning to perfect this skill which isn’t easy to do since my monkey mind is rather gorilla sized.

22. Study a foreign language. As my friend PJ suggests in the comments, this is a life skill worth trying. I stress “trying” because I’ve never come close to speaking a foreign language fluently the way my friends like PJ or the Wife (who’s fluent in several) have done. Learning a foreign language has many benefits, some more obvious than others depending on circumstances. But regardless of what you study you will see the world from a different perspective, even if you never attain fluency. Take Japanese. I never came close to mastering it, but learning the basics of the language taught me some key assumptions. For example, in most cases “I” is never used and is implied. This ambiguity touches upon the cultural trait of the Japanese stressing the group over the individual. The language also relies upon honorofics,  for example the “-san”, “-chan” and “-sama” suffixes that portray the rank of the speaker and whom he or she is speaking to. Japanese conveys the social contexts of the speaker and the listener in ways that are impossible or at best archaic in other languages. Think Downton Abbey for a taste in English.

23. Listen to an old person. I know people who met people who had been born into slavery. Others I’ve talked to remember life without indoor plumbing. While waiting for a car repair to finish I once talked to a Vietnam vet who flew psyops over North Vietnam. What’s better than talking to someone about history who’s lived it? For most of our history as a species the only history books we had were our elderly. The only problem with these “books” is that often by the time we need them, they’re gone. It’s a cliche to attack our youth-centric culture, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the frivolity of youth as long as we keep the more important of life’s decisions in the hands of those who appreciate history and the sense of proportion such knowledge brings. Everyone has elders. Get them talking about a particular subject they are interested in, then listen to them. You might learn something.

 24. Patronize an unknown artist. Perhaps there’s a street musician you pass by on the way home who is playing music you like. Don’t just toss him a buck; buy his CD if he has one laying out. Visit art fairs and art shows that spring up locally and put some of your hard-earned cash into the hands of a skilled but unknown artist or craftsman. Instead of buying a poster of a dead artist, buy an actual print of a living one. We live in an age of mass production where few things are handcrafted. Even things that were once hand made like prints of the Masters are now mass produced. We are human beings, each crafted through evolution by genetics to be one of a kind. We should celebrate this not hide it  behind some cheap prints picked up at Ikea. There are artists in every community who are doing amazing, unique things in their preferred medium. Each piece purchased is guaranteed to be one of a kind and makes more of a personal statement than the same French Cat poster that everyone displays (I admit I used to display it too).

25. Challenge yourself. It might be to do something easy like take a different route home from work, or it can be more difficult like quitting smoking or starting the novel you’ve always wanted to write. The key point here is to force yourself out of your comfort zone and do something that will surprise your friends, your family and ultimately yourself.  It really doesn’t matter if you succeed or not, only that you tried. And once you’ve quit smoking, taken that out of the way route home or written that novel, try something else. I’m teaching myself the mathematics behind quantum physics because I’ve reached a point where I feel I need to understand the math in order to understand the physics better. My goal is to someday touch the math describing the collapse of the wave function. That will be enough for me.

26. (For IT professionals). Learn New Programs/Tools Quickly. Every program or software tool has a unique logic to it. The only way to discover that logic is to use the program as much as possible. You can start by reading the manual, a Dummies book or similar guide, or even reviewing YouTube videos but nothing beats actually using the tool or program as much as you can. What I like to do when I pick up a new program is where the dragons be. These are the places where you’re guaranteed to break something. Learn whee it is then avoid that area. The more intrepid make a beeline for those places and claim they can learn a program or tool much faster by working on the edge. In my view this is selfish when dealing with a distributed tool on a network, so keep to the safe areas unless you are working on your own copy on your own machine. Not only will this skill enhance your earnings potential, but each tool you learn makes others that much easier to learn and the more tools and experience you have, the more important you become in your realm.

 

Meanwhile in the Communist Paradise Known as China…

Chinese property developer pays $2 million for puppy.

World’s most expensive pet or meal, for some it’s hard to decide which…

The Importance of Right Livelihood in Modern Life

One of the tenets of Buddhism is “Right Livelihood.” In a nutshell it means working at a job that doesn’t contribute to the pain and suffering in the world. This isn’t a problem for most jobs, although a few do come to mind. One that does is performing and assisting with abortions.

I am pro-Life as is my family. We live with and bear the cost of our ethics. Dr. Wife may be a liberal but she won’t work for an institution that performs abortions, and we have made decisions and helped others in tight spots when it would have been much easier for us to walk away. I wrap my pro-Life attitude in a pro-Choice mantel because I do not believe the Government has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body, and that ceding that right to the Government makes it much easier for it to grab other rights.  But the cloth of that mantel is thin; scratch it and you will find someone who values innocent life.

When I read about a Planned Parenthood employee who quit because she just couldn’t stomach it any more, I think about how important Right Livelihood is. Now I’ve read interviews with abortionists who claim they have no difficulty sleeping at night, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I doubt any leaders of the Nazi Regime laid awake at night pondering their guilt, nor do those plotting the next terrorist attack. A Buddhist would say that such men and women have a long ways to go before they understand the error of their choices, but they will eventually. I am not a Buddhist. I don’t doubt Evil exists in the world and have no problem seeing these people for what they are.

It’s not just abortionists. There are those working at kill animal shelters who enjoy killing puppies and kittens, and there are those who lie to themselves until they reach a point where they can’t stomach it any more and have to find their own Right Livelihood. Ditto those who work in slaughterhouses. I’m sure some workers get off on killing cows and chickens just as Sadists fed the ranks of the Serbs who ethnically cleansed Bosnia and Croatia. For others its just a job, and they do their best to ignore it. Others get sickened by it and have to quit, and often do so after providing PETA or the ASPCA with videos depicting the horrors of the slaughterhouse.

At the end of the day with our consciousness about to fade we are left alone in darkness with our deeds and our conscience.  2,500 years ago the Buddha understood this which is why He taught the importance of Right Livelihood. It’s a lesson that is timeless.

Spay, Neuter, Adopt – Repeat

One of the few topics of agreement between liberals and conservatives I’ve found is pets, particularly the problems caused by over population. The cool thing is that when the topic of whether Obama should be impeached or not comes up, and your liberal friend’s head is about to explode, just send him a picture of a cute dog needing rescue. Immediately all will be forgotten and instead of pistols-at-dawn (or since we’re talking leftists who support gun control, re-education camps or at the very least, IRS audits) you’ll be sharing animal rescue stories and plotting how to change attitudes towards spay and neuter programs.

Look we all know Obama is the worst president in history, but whomever takes his place will likely not be able to solve the problem of pet overpopulation. To do this requires not just changing the attitudes of those who believe it’s “unnatural” to spay or neuter a dog or keep their cat inside, it requires changing our attitudes as well.

I used to consider myself a cat person. When I was five I ended up with a tiny little kitten, the runt of the litter who wouldn’t be nursed by her mother. So my mother gave me a doll bottle with kitten formula and I nursed the kitten myself. The kitten became my first best friend. I wrote songs and poetry to her while a child and she repaid me with her company for 17 years. There have been other cats since her passing, but none like her, and because of my experience with her I shunned dogs for the most part until my son came into the picture. We ended up adopting a Bichon, and it rekindled my interest in dogs.

I realized something: I wasn’t a cat person at all. I was an animal person. I found the love I had for animals wasn’t limited to a specific species or breed, it transcended such divisions. As I grew older I met others who felt the same. Some had lived with a special dog that changed theirs lives. I’ve even met people who had a special rabbit and parakeet. There are no dog or cat people at all. There are just animal people.

And it makes sense. We are after all animals. We are products of Nature and have evolved and developed as a species alongside other animals. We have influenced their evolution and they ours. Dogs. Cats. Horses. Cows. The history of all domesticated animals are intertwined with ours as a species, and so it should not come as a surprise that today in the modern era there are people like us who still treasure the company and care of animals.

But not everyone agrees. I’ve lived in places where animals were viewed no differently from inanimate objects – property to be used and discarded at will.

One way those of us who chant the mantra of “spay and neuter” can further help the pet overpopulation problem is by adopting more animals. If you have one dog, add another from a shelter. If you have two dogs consider adding a cat – preferably two – to your home. Most domestic animals prefer the company of others of their kind, and that is true with all the animals I’ve handled whether tropical fish, cats or horses.

You don’t have  to go crazy. I don’t want anyone appearing on Animal Cops. Adopting animals is easy; caring for them on a day-to-day basis is another. I’m running two litter boxes for 8 cats and have to scoop them daily. If I don’t disaster strikes, and honestly it is a chore along with all the other animal chores I have for caring for 8 dogs, 13 chickens and 45 gallons of tropical fish that make daily life a challenge. The idea is to save as many animals as you can properly care for, and that requires having the means to pay vet bills ($4,000 one year not too long ago), the time to exercise your dogs and lavish attention on each and every one of your pets.

Making room in our hearts and homes while proselytizing about the importance of spay and neuter programs, the immorality of breeding for profit, and donating time and money to your favorite rescue group or animal shelter will speed the arrival of a time where every animal is wanted and has a forever home as each deserves.

 

 

Wild At Heart Tames The Restless Soul

I’m not sure what it is about the Brits, but they know how to make good television. I grew up watching Benny Hill on the local independent TV station, then graduated to Monty Python, Doctor Who, and what I believe is the funniest TV show ever produced, Fawlty Towers. Thanks to technology I haven’t watched an American network show in years, and with Amazon Prime and Netflix Streaming I have seriously cut back my American cable reality TV viewing to just a few shows. Instead of watching yet another navel-gazing reality show at night, thanks to Amazon Prime we watch Ballykissangel, a comedy/drama set in a fictitious town near the Wicklow mountains in Ireland. It also allowed us to catch up with Downton Abbey. Over the summer we burned through Doc Martin, one of the quirkiest and addictive shows we’ve seen in years about a GP living in a small town on the Cornish coast (I’m saving the last 4 episodes of the last season like a treat to be savored only on special occasions).

We discovered the show Wild At Heart somewhat by accident during a Netflix streaming test drive. The show stars Ballykissangel’s Stephen Tompkinson as Danny Travanian, a vet from Bristol whose wife, played by Amanda Holden, decides to take their blended family on a trip to South Africa to release a vervet monkey brought into her husband’s surgery. While there they are convinced by the owner of a small game reserve to invest their life savings into the park and stay.

Tomkinson and co-star Bovril

The show is a delight for animal lovers and for Africa lovers. It is almost entirely filmed in South Africa as is evident by the light. Anyone who has lived in Africa knows the lighting there is different, likely due to the continent’s elevation and dust in the air, and the warmth the light provides the scenes makes Africa as much a character in the show as the animals or the actors. The stories are well written and the characters grow over time. For example in the early episodes Danny’s daughter Rosie is an annoying suburban girl, and his stepson Ethan is an emo kid you want to slap and send to military school, but by the third season each has evolved into a well-rounded and interesting character to the point when Ethan leaves Leopard’s Den, the fictitious game park, you really are sad to see the kid go. But as anyone who grew up watching British TV knows like Blake’s 7 or Red Dwarf knows, the Brits are much less averse to knocking off characters than Americans, and Wild at Heart is no different, so if you are interested in the show do yourself a favor and avoid reading anything containing spoilers.

Don’t let the “family show” moniker I’ve seen used to describe Wild at Heart put you off. One of the main characters, Anders Du Plessis (played by Deon Stewardson) the owner of Leopard’s Den, is a South African wild man who drinks to excess and won’t be appearing at an AA meeting anytime soon. Wildlife conservation in Africa is not easy, and the show pulls no punches about that. Money is always a problem. Corruption is rampant, and Nature is not pretty. Things die, often in brutal ways, and the show doesn’t sugarcoat this reality. Yes there is no sex shown (at least between humans) but it does get bloody at times, especially during an unforgettable lion attack that was filmed so expertly that it’s one of the more savage things I’ve seen. I don’t think the kids will sleep well after seeing it; at least I didn’t.

Wild at Heart was canceled last year after a 7 season run, supposedly because ITV, the network behind the show ran into financial difficulties producing a Titanic remake. Worse, Netflix Streaming will be dropping the show when a licensing arrangement ends on October 15, 2013, although the first season is available on Amazon Prime and on DVD. All other seasons are available only on Region 2 DVD, meaning they will not play on North American market DVD players.

But I doubt this will be the last we’ve seen of the show. What pet owner has never dreamed of shooing a cheetah off their bed, or having a family of elephants playing in their front yard? The world is a very desolate and at times hopeless place, but for 46 minutes you can lock it in a cage and release your inner hominid to roam freely across the African savannah once more.

 

The Alarm System

The barking drifts into my dream where it’s incorporated into the plot, but as it lasts I know something in real life is wrong and I force myself to awaken. I come out of my sleep grudgingly, and check the time: 3:30am. The barking is louder now, almost frenzied, and I can tell the dogs are excited. I am no Doctor Doolittle, but spend time with your animals and pay enough attention to them and you’ll understand how they communicate. Whatever it is that has them riled up is new, but has them scared. I dress and grab a high-power flashlight and open the gun safe. Bears are known in these parts and one was sighted on the property next to mine, so I grab the .223. I have no intention of shooting a bear if I come upon one, but I choose the tool necessary in case I need to protect myself or the dogs.

The night is clear and moonless, and all the constellations in the sky are the ones I’ll be seeing next season at a more opportune viewing time. I click the flashlight and scan. “Blue” the pack coward, the one I rescued and intended to become the guard of the pack, is at the edge of the clearing leading into the woods barking wildly. She runs back towards me, obviously relieved to see me, then runs forward in a vain attempt to prove she’s fierce. She’s not but I love her anyway. I call to the dogs, and shine the light forward. The beagle appears, her eyes catching the light and glowing somewhat demonically. A demonic beagle. Not exactly the hellhound of ancient mythology, and I’d appreciate the irony if my heart wasn’t throbbing in my ears and I wasn’t scared to the point where each step became like trudging through sand. Hearing my arrival the frenzy of the pack reaches a crescendo. Now the dogs want to show their bravery and I’m worried that they are going to do something stupid and get hurt. A dog is no match for a bear’s claw which can gut it from nose to tail with a single swipe. I push through the underbrush, thorns catching my jeans and cutting my arms as I hold the flashlight in one hand and the rifle in the other. I begin to regret my choice of weapon. A .223 round has too much velocity and will pass through an animal and put me at risk of hitting one of my own dogs. Perhaps the .12 gauge with buckshot would have been the wiser choice. But what do I know about guns; I grew up in the suburbs and even at the age of 12 my mother forbade buying a toy gun from the local Ben Franklin that shot pea sized rubber balls a whole 5 yards for fear I’d hurt myself with it. I’m learning as I go along.

Self doubt mixes with fear as the barking grows louder, but at least the adrenaline dulls the pain from the thorny vines. I push forward and catch in the light the stray shepherd I feed but who will not let us touch. He’s perhaps the toughest dog of the pack, and by far the wiliest given that he freely roams the surrounding area. But he defers to the dog I believe is his sister, a shepherd chow mix I rescued at the nearby bridge, and the pack alpha, a lab/border collie mix who used to be too scared to go into our backyard to pee in the suburbs at night without the Wife or me being with her. They are dancing and barking around the base of a tree, leaping up in a vain attempt to catch what shelters in its limbs above them. I raise the light expecting to see a huge brown mass of fur.

And find a snarling mouth full of sharp teeth in a long grey snout followed by a loud cat-like hiss.

A possum. The dogs treed a possum. All this over a possum? Possums may not look particularly dangerous when they are squished on the side of the road, but when they are up close to your face, those sharp teeth and claws are pretty scary, so scary in fact that hillbillies in these parts are known to get drunk and catch them by hand for fun. I thought this was a myth until a mid-level told the Wife about finding her husband covered in scratches one night with a can of beer in one hand and a possum by the tail in the other, grinning proudly. Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

Well my pack isn’t exactly the smartest and they are still learning the woods, and honestly I’m too relieved and tired to care. I don’t have to shoot anything, and no one, including the possum, is going to get hurt this morning. I call to the dogs and convince them one by one to leave the tree, and follow me back into the house. Eventually there’s just the shepherd, and he’s got better things to do than mess with a possum, so he’s the last to follow me back to the house where he stops at the edge of the driveway.

It’s now 4:00am, and the dogs are still excited, running around inside the house and barking as if they had won a great battle. And perhaps they had in their own little doggie minds; I was too tired to convince them otherwise. I locked the gun back up, undressed and returned to bed, assured that something even as small as a possum would not escape notice by my pack. It’s not the best alarm system in the world, and heaven knows it’s not cheap given the cost of dog food and vet bills, but it works.

Why Laws Banning Unrestrained Pets Are Misguided

Chicago is considering a law requiring seatbelts or other type of restraints for pets in vehicles. The reason for this is the distraction unrestrained pets can cause drivers behind the wheel. Such a law strikes some as common sense, but not everyone.

I drive with unrestrained pets in my car. As someone who loves all animals but especially dogs I am aware of the risks. I’ve had a flying lab-border collie mix and a min pin missile inside the car during sudden stops, and recognize the potential danger I put these animals in whenever we “go bye-bye.” Restraining them properly in the vehicle is in their best interest, and because of that I am going to change my behavior, not because the State threatens to fine me. The guilt from the pain I’ve caused one of my animals is much worse than any fine the State can levy.

But the purpose of the law isn’t the danger people like me put their animals in: it’s the danger to others caused by distracted driving. My problem with the law is there are many different types of distracted driving. Recently a young man in my area was killed after he reached for a bottled water that rolled between the seats. Are we going to ban unrestrained drinks? Perhaps billionaire Mayor Bloomberg might, but I believe there is a better way. The law is a blunt instrument: legislators cannot foresee every possibility to adequately address each in a law, and therefore the law might make a few people believe the government is doing something while all it is doing is causing trouble for otherwise law-abiding citizens who get pulled over and fined while driving with an unrestrained beagle zonked out in the backseat after a “tutor” appointment at the vet.

The problem isn’t unrestrained dogs or unrestrained water bottles in cars: it’s distracted driving. Now it would be nice if every driver could be free from every possible distraction, from barking lap dogs to billboards, text messages, cute girls, cell phone conversations, intense arguments with passengers, loud music or deep thoughts. But drivers will never find themselves in a perfect distraction-free bubble, so why fight it? We are wasting our time trying to prevent distractions, and worse by legislating against them. For one thing, one of the worst offenders of distracted driving has always been billboards, yet the outdoor advertising industry has successfully killed legislation banning them. For another there will always be cases where something is distracting to some but not all.

I’ve been thinking alot about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Anti-Fragile, and how to apply it to daily life. For those unfamiliar with the book or the concept of anti-fragility, think of it as the old Chinese maxim, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Stress breaks fragile systems, but makes anti-fragile systems better. Our immune system is an excellent example of an anti-fragile system. Every virus you’ve been exposed to, whether through childhood immunizations or illnesses you’ve suffered, just make you less likely to become seriously ill from those or related viruses.

Is there a way to apply the concept to driving? We already do: through experience. As the parent of a new driver, one of the challenges I’ve faced is teaching the Kid how to react when driving gets unpredictable. Some parents try to startle their kids to help teach them to react by shouting “STOP!”, others simply drive with their child long enough so that he or she faces unforeseen events such as another driver cutting him off or running a red light. Our experiences behind the wheel teach us to become better drivers through the close calls we’ve had that we never forget. Like nearly falling asleep at the wheel on Interstate 55 in the middle of Illinois, or beginning to accelerate at a light as a car with no lights runs the red light at high speed and misses t-boning my car by mere inches, or zoning out in a day dream and failing to see the lady stopped just ahead.

We can’t pass 500,000 miles of driving experience to our kids, but perhaps we could train them to better handle distractions as in this Farmer’s Insurance commercial highlighting the trouble caused by distracted driving. We should be teaching drivers how to handle distractions while behind the wheel, how to maintain focus no matter how bad the distraction. Are you allergic to bees? What if one stung you while driving? How would you react? Could you remain focused enough to pull over to the side of the road safely? Perhaps instead of banning certain distractions we should be revamping our driver’s education curricula to handle distractions. Driver’s education courses geared towards experienced drivers would also be good, the payoff being lower insurance rates. Such courses would focus on maintaining concentration while driving, teaching how to prioritize attention so that driving always remains at the top, and learning how to avoid slip-ups like reading a billboard that catches the eye or a pretty girl walking down the sidewalk seen in the rear-view mirror, even texting and eating while driving. What matters is not the distraction but maintaining the concentration necessary to drive safely. In that respect the scenario shown in the Farmers Insurance commercial isn’t far off the mark.

Our society has become so legalistic that it’s almost inevitable the solution to a problem becomes a proposed law. Whether it’s something minor like unrestrained dogs in vehicles or tragic such as the Newtown School Massacre, a segment of the populace usually demands somebody do something, usually “for the children,” and our lawmakers are only happy to oblige. But the solution to every problem should not be a legal one; there are far more effective ways of achieving the goal of laws without resorting to them if we as a society only allow ourselves to do so.

The Truth Revealed: The Real Reason Cats Knock Things Onto the Floor

Gravity is important to cats. Their deep understanding of the subject allows them to accomplish acrobatic feats such as always landing on their feet in a fall. Therefore it is critical for felines to constantly check its state in case someone somewhere stumbles on a disproof of the Theory of Gravity and it ceases functioning. They do this by knocking things at random onto the floor. Some have suggested that this behavior is due to a cat’s instinctive dislike for anything containing an abundance of potential kinetic energy, and that by knocking such objects onto the floor they release the kinetic energy stored in the object and feel better. Of course having 8 cats I can assure you that while an attractive theory, the kinetic energy theory of cat behavior is incorrect. In order to know the truth one must consider the problem from the cat’s perspective.

Imagine what a cat would look like if gravity failed and it was unceremoniously plastered on the bedroom ceiling. No cat would survive the embarrassment, so all cats do the proper thing: test gravity by knocking things onto the floor. In the unlikely event such a test sends an object floating to the ceiling a cat knows gravity has failed and is prepared to execute a graceful turn and land paws first on the ceiling, saving it from embarrassment and impressing anyone – or anything – that witnesses the acrobatic maneuver.

So the next time you find your keys, your watch or anything important on the floor that you didn’t put there, rest assured that by continuously testing gravity the cat not only insures himself against embarrassment, but his human companion from stepping outside during a gravity failure and floating into the void of space.

Cats: Newton’s Gravity Inspectors

Every Pet Owner Should Own Multiple Pets

If you have 1 dog, find another.
If you have 2 dogs, find another.
If you have 3 dogs, find a cat.
If you have 2 cats, find another.
If you have three cats, find a dog.
Repeat

We aren’t going to solve the overpopulation problem until every pet owner becomes a multi-pet owner. I mention this as the owner of 8 cats and 7 dogs who is looking to adopt another dog to bring my home back into balance. All are spayed/neutered and up-to-date with shots. It costs less than you think and brings a completely new dimension to living with animals.

There should be no “cat people” or “dog people”, there should only be “animal people.”

Please don’t buy animals. Rescue them instead.

Lisa Cervone Copyright 2013

Guinness by Lisa Cervone Copyright 2013
According to the photographer Guinness was rescued from a drug dealer and has a new home.

The Last Post of the Year

The household is in grief over the death of our alpha dog, a chihuahua we rescued almost six years ago. He was old and epileptic when we found him, but he packed a lot of personality in that little body of his. He was loyal to everyone but like most chi’s he devoted most of his time to a single individual, and for us that was the Wife, usually sleeping behind behind her knees. He was extremely active and playful, running with us as we walked the upper field in the cold air yesterday evening. He was fearless, and crept off into the night while we weren’t looking after dinner, traveling an eighth of a mile for reasons unknown in the cold and dark to the road where he was hit by a car. I found him laying beside the road, alive but severely injured. A hair-raising drive to the emergency vet was for naught, and we had to put him to sleep.

2012 was a year of brutality. It started for us with the execution style slaying of a man nearby, followed by the killing of a rescued dog that had somehow had slipped our protection and was leapt upon by some of my upper-ranking females and died at the vet. The Wife’s sister was found dead in a Las Vegas parking lot. And now this. Friends have also suffered similar tragedies this year with pets and loved ones. Then there’s the local tragedy where a woman moved into a home and ran a portable generator in the house, killing her two children and almost dying herself. Expanding outward there is Sandy Hook of course and Aurora, and abroad the horrors of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali and Syria. The Buddha taught that Life means suffering, and for some reason 2012 demanded more suffering both great and small than most years. I am amazed, stunned, horrified, disappointed and disgusted with the world, and I only wish the New Age Doomers had been right about the Apocalypse last week.

With my last breath of the year I am left speechless except to say, “2012: F*** You.”