SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I love dogs. But I also love helicopters, and I didn’t want to spend the time or money for one of those, either.
But at the moment Emily spends a lot of time at home without me, and she wanted some company. We’ve both had pets most of our lives; there’s nothing like a loving dog to bring a little brightness into your life, along with vet bills and various forms of bodily waste.
She does have her snake, Lucius, but have you ever tried taking a snake for a walk? A collar won’t even stay on those things. Also, when a dog starts cuddling you, there’s rarely a worry that it’s thinking “One squeeze and you’re dinner”.
After awhile Emily started giving me gentle little hints, such as sending me photos of sad-faced dogs with the caption “If they’re not adopted, they’ll die!” I’d send her back photos of our bank balance sheet.
Finally, despite all my manly attempts to avoid it, we sat down and had a conversation. We agreed that if we got a dog it would have to be something medium sized, like a collie or large beagle. I hate those little ankle biters who bark like they’re breathing helium. I’ve always had large dogs like German shepherds, but we wanted this to be an indoor dog, and getting a big one in our house would be like turning Godzilla loose in downtown Fort Wayne.
Soon Emily found a photo of a shelter/rescue pet on petfinder.com: a part shepherd mix, adult, already partially trained, brought in a month before after it strayed or was dumped by some former owner. (By the way, “rescue” means the human rescues it, not that the dog goes searching for you with a thermos of brandy. Not that I have a problem with that.)
The vet who had the dog named him Goliath, apparently a joke since, in the photo, Goliath looked nice and medium sized. Just what we needed.
I’ve never adopted a dog from outside Noble County; my pets usually turn up at the door all by themselves. The application was more detailed than most job applications I’ve filled out. References? My driver’s license? Blood type?!
What arrangements have you made in case you become incapable of taking care of your pet?
Um, I’ll let him eat my body? I’ve put on a few pounds, that should keep him awhile.
Why do you want to adopt this pet?
That one gave me pause. My answer to questions like that is usually the same one that enrages parents and kids alike: “Um … because?”
But I know why. Dogs are so much better than humans: Completely loyal, never talking about you behind your back, unconditionally loving and never holding a grudge. They’re like humans with the bad stuff taken out. If they turn on you, it’s generally because you did something bad, not because they covet your job promotion or your Elton John album collection.
We drove to a town called Warren, Indiana, and walked into the veterinarian’s office with the intention of meeting Goliath in person, to see if we bonded. I walked to the counter, looked over, and came eye to eye with the dog, who was stretched out around the vet’s office chair.
All the way around.
You see, the photo did not do justice, and it turns out the name Goliath wasn’t ironic at all.
He stalked out – causing the building to shake – knocking over chairs with his massive tail, and
looked me in the eyes with those big brown ones of his (I didn’t have to crouch down for this). I was thinking, “This dog is way bigger than what we intended.”
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Being a pet owner is like being a parent, in that if you’re a good one you have to do the work, instead of just enjoying the experience. On the way home we drove with the windows cracked, and I almost lost visibility from the fur whirlwind blowing around in the car. Although we’d already prepared for some dog, we had to stop for a fur brush, a heavy-duty collar meant for Angus bulls, and food dishes heavy enough that he wouldn’t shoot them across the room and break our ankles. Then we bought him a small
compact car to use as a chew toy.
That day I took him for a walk around town, learning he’s skittish around other dogs, and doesn’t like sirens at all. We encountered two little girls who patted his head; one murmured “he’s big”, and the other replied, “He’s big as a horse”. We’re going to get a lot of exercise, and I’d better buy a snow suit, because walks don’t stop when winter blows in.
But for all the challenges of having a pet, there are worse things in life. For instance, there’s not having one.
By the way, we didn’t want him carrying around a heavy, big sounding name like that, so we call him Bae. It’s short for Beowulf.
SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
It’s been a particularly challenging year, and I wonder if the main thing we should be thankful for is that it’s almost over.
My home was the scene of more medical mysteries than an episode of “House”, most of the country suffered through a drought, every city whose name starts with “New” got hit by a hurricane, the economy was a sad joke, and our politicians are too sad to be a joke. It’s always a good idea to avoid saying things couldn’t get worse, but surely they could be better.
On the other hand …
Look, it’s Thanksgiving week. You’re supposed to find things you’re thankful for, right? Like flowering plants (which I always kill), and kittens (I’m allergic), and bright, sunny days. (Did I mention the drought?)
But look at it this way: My wife went through so many separate medical conditions in one year that maybe we could get funding for a study. Surely there are federal funds for that – there are federal funds for everything. If Washington can pay for the study of the migration pattern of red winged Delaware tree frog larvae, they can throw a million or so in our direction. I’ll bet my sinus infection that there’s a department just printing out checks for that stuff.
And sure, there was a drought, but that means most places didn’t flood. There’s still plenty of water: It just happens to be somewhere else. With so many out of work, why doesn’t the government train a bunch of people to lay water pipelines across the country? Works for gas and oil.
New Orleans? Still standing. Maybe this latest hurricane will convince officials to finally just move the whole city: Take the whole thing, lock stock and cemetery, and place the population somewhere safer. In other words, above sea level.
I know what you’re thinking: That’s a lot of taxpayer money, Mark. Yes, it is … but that would be the last time New Orleans levees would be a problem, and when hurricanes do hit that area, we can pipe the water to dry states.
Politics? Well, the President’s reelection was a disaster or a blessing, depending on how you voted. If things continue to deteriorate in this country, he’ll be there to blame; if things get better, he’ll be there to credit. Either way, some people are happiest when they have someone to complain about.
I guess it’s all a half-full half-empty kind of thing, where you have to decide if you want to spend all your time complaining about what you don’t like, or being thankful for what you do like.
Most of us choose to complain. Maybe the best thing about Thanksgiving is that it forces us, just for that one day, to think about it the other way.
Then comes Black Friday, and we can start complaining again.
To Native Americans, Black Friday was pretty much every day after they realized the newcomers weren’t going to play nice. And they didn’t even get a half-priced TV out of the deal.
But even in that there’s something to be thankful for, at least for me. If the Cherokee people hadn’t been kicked off their land, some of them wouldn’t have escaped into the Appalachians to avoid the Trial of Tears. If that didn’t happen, one group of my ancestors would never have met my other group of ancestors, Irish who also headed up into the Appalachians. To this day some of my relatives have black hair with red strands, and a temper.
I suppose talking about Indians isn’t the most politically correct subject when discussing Thanksgiving, but still. Here’s what I’m thankful for:
Emily, who married me this year and is going to do it again next year, if we can swing the cost. Maybe we’ll make it a tradition.
My relatives who had multiple medical troubles and came through the other side. I mean the good living side, not the “go to the light” side.
Getting a short story collection published; it hasn’t exactly been a best seller, but just being published beats the odds.
Living in a country where I can criticize the government, and face nothing more than being unfriended on Facebook. If someone in a dark suit knocks on my door in the middle of the night, they’re probably just the late shift passing out copies of the Watchtower.
Reality TV, which gives me an excuse to turn off the television and read a book.
The list goes on and on, and does indeed include flowering plants and kittens. I may not be able to have them in my house, but I can at least look at them … which goes for a lot of things in life, come to think of it.
So cheer up for a day, and give thanks for the good stuff. For instance, you may not like winter, but at least there won’t be any campaign ads. Talk about thankful.
My short story collection has received its first Amazon review:
The reviewer said it was better than 50 Shades, but not as good at Hunger Games; also that it was a worthy gift for cousins and in-laws, but you might want to pick up Storm Chaser for parents and beloved siblings.
You can get Storm Chaser Shorts on e-book at the websites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Whiskey Creek Press, and if you have a club account there you can pick it up for $2.54 at Fictionwise:
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SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I assume, since the Presidential election was so close, that President Obama understands he doesn’t have anything that could be called a mandate for his next four years. What he has, in fact, is a nation more divided than Dolly Parton’s cleavage.
(And yet, before the election was officially called, an Obama supporter said on network news that the President did, indeed, have a mandate.)
(Wait, Dolly Parton? Should I use a more modern well-endowed celebrity? Snooki? That fat guy from Pawn Stars? How do I know they’re not both using push-ups?)
(Why do I use parenthesis so often?)
Maybe, then, he’ll listen to me, a person who according to internet questionnaires is a right leaning moderate. And those things are never wrong. So I’ve drawn up a list of questions that, I hope, will make the President think about the challenges we face, and how we can solve them using reason and common sense, rather than partisan politics.
Stop laughing, he’ll listen.
First of all, while ten years ago the greatest threat to our country was the war with extremists who hijacked the Muslim religion, that’s now fallen to second place. Third place, if you count Congress.
Mr. President, what will you do about our crushing federal debt? Your Vice-President once suggested we could spend our way out of it. I do hope you keep him in his Hannibal Lector mask when he isn’t medicated. Spending your way out of debt is like trying to escape the Titanic by drilling a hole in the ship’s hull.
(No, that’s not a partisan comment: If Joe Biden turned Republican, he’d just be the same moron with a bigger flag on his lapel.)
Taxing your way out of this much debt is impossible. Not only that, it’s unfair to ask anyone – even rich people, who are clearly all evil for being rich – to pay more taxes without the government also making a real attempt to cut red ink. The word “unsustainable” was actually invented for this situation. What will you cut? How will you stand your ground when the special interest groups start screaming? When Congressmen start losing their pork-barrel vote getter projects, will you have a yardstick big enough to rap their frightened knuckles with?
On a related note, what are you going to do about all the things the federal government does that aren’t allowed by our Constitution? Are you going to try to change the Law of the Land? Amend it? Ignore it? There are entire federal departments dedicated to areas that are the responsibilities and rights of the states, a myriad of things Washington should have never dipped its fingers into.
If the states kept all that money and the bean counters in Washington had to go find a real job, would that not shrink government? And thus help control spending? And if you’re not going to go by the Constitution, why not just use it as paper for your little ankle biter to do his business on? (But enough about Joe Biden.)
What are you going to do about illegal immigration? Canada hasn’t been too much trouble, but Mexico is getting more violent than an episode of Jerry Springer. People keep saying we can’t keep all drug runners and gangsters from crossing the border, but why don’t we at least keep most of them out? Why are we letting innocent people of many nations endanger their lives and become criminals in illegal border crossings? (Yes, when you commit a crime, that makes you a criminal. Kinda the definition.)
If we need immigrants to do jobs citizens won’t do, why aren’t we making changes to our immigration policy and letting more people in legally? On a related note, if there are citizens who refuse to do jobs that are available, are we making sure they don’t get welfare or unemployment benefits?
If we’re not going to even try, then why not just throw the border open, make Mexico the 51st state, and save money on INS agents? (Or the 52nd state, after Puerto Rico.)
What are you doing to combat fraud, and make sure people don’t abuse federal benefits? The helpless should be helped, and the hopeless given hope; but honest people should not have to pay for dishonest people.
(No, I don’t know a good way to tell between the two: Dude, you wanted the job.)
Why do we have military bases in countries we defeated three quarters of a century ago? Tempting as it is, America cannot be isolationist in a modern world; still, I can’t help thinking World War II is pretty much over.
On another related note, why are we sending money, arms, and even troops to countries where governments hate us? If they want us out of there, we should leave. If that leads to chaos, they asked for it. With our financial situation, we shouldn’t be getting involved unless it’s part of a coordinated effort by every nation, and they bring cookies. We have the power to be the world’s policeman, but we don’t have the money. Whether we have the right is a whole other debate.
Back to our second most serious problem: How are you going to handle the threat of Muslim extremists? Despite your early efforts to make it seem otherwise, the war’s still on and they still want to kill us. Do we kill them first? (Congrats for offing some of them, by the way.) Try to convince moderate Islam and other governments to help fight? Try to reason with them? (And while we’re at it, hand feed rabid attack dogs?) Close off the borders, increase security, and wait for the next 9/11? Send them cute bunnies?
What are you going to do to get government out of the way of private enterprise? How will you balance reasonable regulation against job-killing government intrusion? How will you protect individual liberties?
And can you do something about reality television?
These are the questions some people are asking, Mr. President. We wish the country good luck – and you good health.(And that’s worth a parenthesis.)
World of My Imagination: Saying Goodbye to Writer's Digest Community Groups...: I received some disappointing news last week that Writer's Digest will be closing down their community. Although they still have a separate ...
Veteran’s Day began as Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I – on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Known as the Great War, it was also called The War to End All Wars. We all know how that worked out.
Here’s a poem I found on the internet, which says all there is to say about the men and women we honor:
The Bravest Man I Know
by Amanda Whitney
The bravest man I know.
Is a man I've never met.
He's a man who risks his life
To save a friend,
Not only to save a friend,
But to save a nation.
Risking his life
For those he does not know.
Leaving loved ones behind,
So that somewhere,
Someone else won't have to.
He is a man who follows orders
Even though he knows he might die.
The bravest man I know.
Is the man who would rather die,
So one more person could go home
To see his family again.
The man who stares death in the face,
But never blinks.
The bravest man I know.
Is the man who risks his life
So one day the world may be a better place for his children.
Or any man who goes against his biggest fear.
Just to save someone he loves.
The bravest man I know.
Is the man who fights
So another man can have the taste of sweet freedom.
Not fighting only for his own benefit,
But for many others all over the world,
Fighting to make this world a better place.
That's the bravest man I know.