b Papa Dog's Blog: January 2006

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Baby, You're the Best

Baby Dog is really learning to sing now. I’ve mentioned her special Napster playlist. As with any medium prey to the tastes of a fickle public, songs have waxed and waned in popularity. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” has declined in popularity – Baby Dog perhaps being influenced here by Mama Dog, who has grown heartily sick of hearing “a-wemoweh, a-wemoweh” every morning, tending instead to skip to the next track. At the same time, Baby Dog has found a real appreciation for the happy bounce of Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s R&B novelty hit, “Ain’t Got No Home” (that’s the one where he got his nickname by singing like a frog).

One track that has gone down and then back up in popularity – despite Mama Dog having grown weary of it as well – is Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better (The Spy Who Loved Me).” It would take more time than it’s worth to explain why this was on Baby Dog’s playlist in the first place, but it seems she has in the fullness of time embraced this song wholeheartedly—so much so that she now sings entire verses to herself. Not while the song’s playing, mind you, but just to herself in odd moments. In her crib. When playing in the living room. She doesn’t exactly have the tune right, but she sure knows (most of) the words. “Nobody DOES it better,” she waveringly croons, “makes me feel sad FOR da rest, nobody DOES it good as you” – missing a couple of words there, but still – “baby, you’re da best!” I can’t quite bring myself to believe she understands what those words mean when strung together in that order, but she definitely knows the order.

Her next feat of memorisation will surely be the opening stanza of Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands.” This morning, during nappy change, she looked up at me and sang, “Lights out tonight.” I waited, but “trouble in the heartland” did not seem to be forthcoming. Yet.

Monday, January 30, 2006

There’s No There There (Pointing at Own Skull)

Worked til seven, BARTed home, spent a little time playing with the baby in the bathtub, wolfed down my supper, sang the girl to sleep, walked the dog, had about fifteen minutes to chat with Mama Dog about our days (after which she collapsed into exhausted sleep), then spent the last hour doing freelance work. My eyes are glazed and my head is empty. Ice cream calls. I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Muir Woods

A somewhat untypical but nonetheless favoured selection in Baby Dog’s library is little board book called The Tallest Tree. It tells about all the wildlife to be found in and around the trees in California’s redwood forests, such as the Stellar’s Jay, “a bright blue noisy bird.” When we come to the Stellar’s Jay page, she exclaims “Noisy bird!” Earlier this week, Mama Dog suggested we should at some point make the trip across the Richmond Bridge to Muir Woods for a look at the real thing. I said “Why not this weekend?” So that’s what we did this morning, Mama Dog, Baby Dog, Halmonie, and I. It’s about a forty-five minute drive from our house (potentially longer if you head out, as we did, without realising you don’t have the directions). We brought the stroller along, but I viewed it as another opportunity for Baby Dog to practice her walking. We switched off between the three of us, either holding Baby Dog’s hand while she walked or carrying her. We put her in the stroller for the return trip. It’s kind of a citified park – the trail is a boardwalk – so it was easy going for both a newly toddling baby and a wearied stroller. Baby Dog got to see moss and lichen and flowers and spiders in their webs and most of all really tall trees. “Tall tree!” she observed, craning back to see the top of a redwood. The creek that runs through the park (Redwood Creek?) was rain-swollen and dramatically flowing, with little foaming falls and rapids. Not enough to break Ronny Cox’s neck, but impressive enough for Baby Dog, who kept pointing and exclaiming “Water!” We never did see the bright blue noisy bird, but we sure did see us some tall trees.

In other news, I’ve decided that “Kenilus” is a lame name for the Kenilus. Henceforth they shall be known as the Funkadelics – Papa Funkadelic, Mama Funkadelic, Baby Funkadelic, and Doggie Funkadelic.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

One of those Things that Happens in a Room Full of Parents

So the Kenilus decided we had to have another Babypalooza and volunteered to host at their house. It took some wrangling and some date changing, but the Pirates, the Whippets, and we were all able to get there this morning. For reasons that elude memory now, we were the last to show up, having left home about fifteen minutes after the appointed hour of arrival. One thing about going to an all-baby event; nobody gives you any crap for being late.

So we were all up in the Kenilus’ loft room drinking caffeinated beverages and eating bagels and fruit salad when someone ventured the opinion that there was a fart in the air. All eight parents immediately had the same idea – dirty diaper – and simultaneously all four children got lifted up for a smell check. Really, simultaneous. It was like a diaper-smelling drill team. Quite a sight. This is the only kind of gathering I know of where four people can simultaneously smell four other people’s bums and have nobody think it amiss.

The diapers were all clean, by the way. We’re assuming the culprit was one of the four who have neither shame nor self-control.

Friday, January 27, 2006

First Skimpy Last-Minute Post in a While

Long day today, putting in at least a little time on all five of my jobs (if I’m counting correctly). We capped it off by finally watching the first two hours of the current season of 24. “The great thing about Jack,” says I to Mama Dog, “is no matter what, he’s always having a worse day than you are.” My day wasn’t bad, just busy, and tiring, and filled with the incessant gnattery of old WGP. But it’s now the weekend, for which I understand everybody is working. So I’m going to cut short the time I put in on this particular job and get some sleep.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Starry Starry Night

Somewhere or other – a Christmas gift from Big Sister? – can’t remember – we got this Baby Einstein book, See How I Feel which is about Vincent, a critter of some sort –a goat, maybe? – who has feelings and is not shy about expressing them. Vincent has a brother named Theo and a best friend named Paul. He likes to paint pictures, and is very excited to paint the sunflowers when they bloom. He does a portrait of his friend the postman. He also, for unexplained reasons, has a bandage on one ear. Are you getting all this? I hope I don’t have to paint you a picture, because I’m no Van Gogh.

Anyway, Baby Dog has taken a liking to this book, and particularly to one page where Vincent experiences a starry night. Baby Dog surprised me recently by saying, in reference to that page, “Starry starry night.” As you may know, that’s the title of Don McLean’s seemingly endless love poem to Vincent Van Gogh. It turns out that the entire song has been wedged in my memory since I was a teenager, and I sang it to Baby Dog a few times when she was much smaller. I don’t know if she dredged up a memory of that or if I made some chance comment, but she did seem to know it referred to a song. She said “Starry starry night” at bedtime the other night, and I took that as a request. Good choice. It lulled her right to sleep.

Babies like their routines, though, and we’ve definitely settled into one with bedtime. The same three songs have been on the night-night jukebox for longer than I can remember: two from John Prine (“Souvenirs” and “Diamonds in the Rough”) and one from The Clancy Brothers (“The Parting Glass”). Always the same three songs, always the same order. I don’t know why those songs do the trick; they just do.

Last night, as we sat down for night-night songs, Baby Dog said, enquiringly, “Starry Starry Night?” Gamely, I sang to her about the starry night and the palette painted blue and grey and the flaming flowers that brightly blaze, and I contemplated McLean’s Deepest Thought: “I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” “Bosh!” thought I. “This world was meant for Baby Dog, and she’s ten times as beautiful as that grotty old paint-eating Dutchman. Three-quarters of the way through the song, these reveries were interrupted by Baby Dog saying, “Night-night songs? Night-night songs?” I stopped. “You want to hear the regular night-night songs?” I asked. She didn’t answer, which often means yes (when it doesn’t mean no). I shrugged, willing to take any reasonable requests, and started in on “Souvenirs.” She went into her sleep sack at the tail end of “The Parting Glass,” just as usual.

Tonight when we sat down in the rocking chair, she again said, “Starry starry night?” “Okay,” I said, a little more warily this time. I got all of three lines in when she said “Regular night-night songs?” So we switched over to those.

Now I’m starting to wonder if all along she’s simply been commenting on the night sky, and has been too polite to interrupt me when I start singing that sappy painter song.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Baby Steps

We took Baby Dog for her consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon today, and it went quite swimmingly. He confirmed what’s been my conviction all along – that there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with her physically, and she’s just moving along at her own pace learning to walk. The fact that she’s been slow at every stage of mobility development but has reached the necessary plateaus eventually makes it seem quite likely that the same thing will happen with walking. We need to continue to be patient and work with her. He recommended working with a physical therapist to suggest things we might try to help her along, but at the rate she’s going now, it’s entirely possible that she’ll be walking before we even get the appointment. There remains a possibility of neurological problems behind her slow progress, but we only have to worry about that if she continues to be unable to find her walking balance.

With all that in mind, when I took her out to Wally’s World to get Daddy some Coca-Cola, I decided to leave the stroller at home. Part of the problem could be that we’ve made it too easy for her to avoid walking. Baby Pirate rebelled from the stroller early on, wanting to get on with the walking already. Baby Dog has always been content to sit back and be wheeled about. Probably there’s something there. So I took her hand and we walked to the corner, then I picked her up to cross the street. We walked all the way there in that fashion. She’s hold my hand and walk for a while and then I’d pick her up to cross a street, or if she fell down, or if I just had the whim. When my arm got sore from carrying her, I’d set her down again. It took about three times longer than usual to make the short walk to the store, but it was kind of fun.

I soon realised how much more interest Baby Dog took in her surroundings now that we were passing them at her own pace. Ordinarily, we just sail on by at Daddy speed, slowing down only when the wheels of the stroller get hooked up on something or when Daddy stops to point out something he deems worthy of notice. Moving at her own pace, Baby Dog was able to decide what was worth pointing out. “Lots of flowers!” she exclaimed at the dense thicket of weeds on the corner. She pointed flowers out all the way. Her new things is colour, and she correctly (for the most part) identified flowers of yellow, purple, white, and red.

I figured out eventually that all the times she suddenly plopped down on her bum indicated not that she was tired and needed to be picked up, but that she had spotted something on the sidewalk that demanded closer inspection. Unfortunately, what a curious child thinks warrants further inspection is not always savoury. That interesting white splotch, for example – “No, sweetie, that’s bird poop.” “No, honey, that’s a rock. Not good to eat.” “No, that’s a rock, too.” “No, sweetie, garbage cans are dirty.” At one point when I thought she was stooping down to examine a bit of foliage it was actually to scoop up a bit of topsoil for a taste test. My earliest memory is doing almost the same thing, in a sandbox. We had the same reaction: made a face, spat it out.

As advanced as Baby Dog is with language and all, it does seem we’ve been holding her back a bit in other ways. Or at least not sufficiently encouraging her to move herself along. She is moving, though, and every day will bring her new challenges and new experiences, just as it does for any of us. We’ll be there to help her along when necessary and let her take her own steps when not. And to show her the difference between a chalk drawing and a bird dropping.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Horse

I expected to be at work very late tonight, so I told Mama Dog not to hold dinner for me. I ended up getting finished sooner than expected, barely after six, so I called to see what was what. Mama Dog, Baby Dog, and Halmonie were having a night on the town. They were already seated for supper, at The Horse. It seemed unlikely that I could get there before the meal was well along, but I said I’d call when I got to West Oakland and see what stage they were at.

By the time I was out of the tube, they were already done eating, but by my estimation I was only about ten minutes away – five minutes of BART to 12th Street, and then a five minute walk to the restaurant. I asked Mama Dog to order me some lemongrass chicken to go. I made it there almost exactly in the predicted ten minutes. My lemongrass had already arrived and they were waiting for the cheque. Baby Dog was happily reading Go, Dog. Go! at the table. Have you ever noticed it’s punctuated that way? I always thought it was “Go, Dog, Go!” It’s not.

On the way out, Baby Dog started chattering about horsies. I looked up and saw a huge painting of wild horses looking over us. The place really goes with the equine theme. Near the front door there’s a not-quite-life-sized statue of a horse. I let Baby Dog pet its cold hard mane. Halmonie beckoned, patting the horse’s back. “You can sit on it!” she said to Baby Dog. She was so insistent that I started to hoist Baby Dog onto the horse’s back – but then saw the large sign on the wall next to it, reading “PLEASE DON’T SIT ON THE HORSE.” Well, she’s only twenty-some pounds, but I’m Canadian and a sign’s a sign. We had a laugh and went on our merry way.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Chinese New Year Bonus

Last Thursday and Friday there were UPS delivery notices waiting in our mailbox. The sender was Harry and David. Since Harold and Dave is our Christmas gift vendor of choice, we thought perhaps one of our Ho Ho giftees was returning the favour late. Not wanting the box to go back to H&D after the third delivery attempt, we asked our neighbour if she could receive it for us, and she said yes.

I was quite taken aback when I got home tonight and saw the size of the parcel. We just send people a little box of cookies. This box looked big enough to house our paper shredder. Since Har and Dav don’t traffic in paper shredders, though, I knew it wasn’t that. It turned out to be the Colossal Tower of Treats, one treat-stuffed box after another, each one designed in a different way to prevent us from losing weight. Chocolates, cookies, candied cherries, fudge, baklava, cheese, jam, salmon (that there’s for Mama Dog), nuts, popcorn, and an afterthought of apples and pears. “Open present?” baby Dog asked, having the right idea immediately.

The sender turned out to be the LN, for whom I do freelance work. He’s very much of the old school. Back in the days when we worked for the same company, he would unfailingly leave some sort of Christmas bonus for me, often in the form of cold hard currency. Some years that really made a difference for me at holiday time, particularly before Mama Dog put me on the road to fiscal responsibility. Since we stopped working in the same office and my labours on his behalf have been on a contract basis at half again my normal rate, I figured I had seen the last of the Christmas bonuses, and so I had until now. I guess I must have come through in the clinch a few times this past year, though to be honest it’s all such a blur that I don’t remember. Also, the card enclosed identified the occasion as Chinese New Year rather than Christmas. I liked that. It’s very San Franciscan.

Mama Dog, the keeper of the manners, has ordered me to send a thank you card before a full day goes by. I’m actually not certain of the etiquette – I mean, is it a seasonal “gift” or a seasonal “bonus” to someone in a service position? Does that make a difference? I don’t know. I do know that, as mentioned before, Mama Dog excels at thank you cards whereas I blow at them. Perhaps if I give her some more Bing cherries, she’ll write a card for me. Or perhaps I’ll give her the cherries and still do the thing myself.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bernardo's Eighth Annual Poker Birthday Surprise

It’s late January, which means the time has once again come for Bernardo O’Reilly’s annual poker surprise party. If you read my account of last year’s extravaganza, you know how involved these things get. When a guy knows he’s going to be surprised at a poker game in January, the surprises have to get trickier and trickier. If last year’s do was an episode of 24, this year we opted for something a little more John Le Carré – a cynical psychological thriller where the only thing you’re sure of is that nobody can be trusted.

The title of this year’s extravaganza was “The Triple Cross.” Last August, we had a birthday surprise for the Kitty. It wasn’t actually a surprise. The idea was that after the party, the Kitty would grouse to Bernardo about my having organised a Kitty Birthday surprise when it’s well known that the Kitty doesn’t like a fuss being made over his birthday. “This year when they have your surprise,” the Kitty told Bernardo, “I’m tipping you off.” Thus was the stage set.

When Bernardo was unable to make it to the December, it was the perfect opportunity to start Phase II: This would be the game where the Kitty “learned the plan.” In point of fact, the Kitty didn’t even make it to the December game, but since Bernardo wasn’t there either it didn’t really matter. I claimed in the regular post-game email that he was there (conveniently breaking even so the stats wouldn’t be upset) and the Kitty told Bernardo that the surprise had been discussed. I was going to claim the next game wasn’t until February, and in the meantime I’d invite Bernardo to an event at PFA sometime around his birthday. That’s where the surprise would happen.

The Kitty had pre-sold Bernardo on the idea of turning the tables on me, short-circuiting my plan and turning it into their own little surprise party for me. Bernardo was to play along when he got the invitation to PFA and feign enthusiasm. Then, on the night before the “movie” he was supposed to call me and tell me he’d come down with the flu and couldn’t make it. I would try desperately to talk him into going out sick, but he’d remain adamant. I’d end up with no choice but to cancel the surprise. Knowing from past experience that I’d go ahead with the game albeit without the surprise, the Kitty and Bernardo would then show up in mid-game bearing a cake reading “Surprise, Papa Dog!”

All went according to plan until this Friday. I sent Bernardo an email inviting him to a special screening of White Dog, a Sam Fuller Sam Fuller movie that happens to be unavailable on video. (I was particularly proud of this detail, by the way; it would have worked well in a real surprise scenario, being a movie that would be a genuine hook for Bernardo, a rarity but not so rare as to be implausible like, say, a newly discovered print of Orson Welles’ original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons.) Bernardo pretended to take the bait and all week we went back and forth with a peculiar cat-and-mouse exchange of emails, arranging how and when we would meet.

According to the plan, Bernardo was supposed to email or call me Friday night to say he was sick. This is where the plan broke down. Bernardo had been thinking of OTHER surprise scenarios and trying them out on the Kitty, who carefully shot them down and kept steering back to the “Surprise cake” plan. Then at the last minute, Bernardo apparently got pangs of conscience. Knowing how much trouble we were going to to surprise him, he felt it would be bad form to disappoint us. He started saying he wanted to just go through with it and pretend to be surprised.

Saturday morning, there was a flurry of phone calls between me and the Kitty and the Kitty and Bernardo. We tried everything we could think of to bring Bernardo back on course. It struck me that my big screw-up had been to play the fake “planning the PFA scam” emails that the Kitty had been forwarding to Bernardo too cool. I should have laid the smugness on thick to motivate Bernardo to revenge. I told the Kitty to tell Bernardo that I’d been talking shit about how easy it was to pull the wool over his eyes. Even that didn’t work. Bernardo remained obstinately determined to feign surprise.

Of course, at this point I was suspecting I was the victim of a quadruple cross, and I spent some time trying to figure out what angle was being played.

Ultimately, I decided it was genuine. The Kitty had suggested a couple of ways to salvage the plan, but none of it made sense to me. Finally, Mama Dog gave me the inspiration to see it through properly. We decided that we would let Bernardo go ahead to C’est Café, the coffee shop near PFA where we’d “arranged” to “meet.” Mama Dog and the Kitty and I would meet at PFA and then walk over together to C’est Café, where I’d confront Bernardo. The scenario was: we had gathered at PFA as planned, then the Kitty had slipped up by saying “What time are you meeting Bernardo at C’est Café” – a piece of information he could only have been privy to from Bernardo. The jig being up and Bernardo not following his “plan” anyway, the Kitty had then come clean with me. When we confronted Bernardo, I told him that I knew he knew and it was all a wash. Everybody else had already headed over to Dingo’s, Mama Dog and I had to stop at home to check on the baby (that part was actually true), and he and the Kitty should just go on and get their stupid cake and meet us at Dingo’s.

Mama Dog and I headed home, took care of some domestic business, and then went over to the game. Gathered there already were Dingo and La Dinga, Papa Pirate and Mama Pirate, and R Word the BART Cop and his ladyfriend from Transylvania whose name I now realise I never got because nobody introduced us. A while after that, Bernardo and the Kitty arrived bearing a cake. They had gone to the Merritt Bakery, where Bernardo watched the counter staff bring out a cake that said “Surprise Papa Dog,” and then box it up. But when Bernardo opened the box at Dingo’s, he was confronted with a cake that read “Correction – Surprise, Bernardo!” and everybody yelled “SURPRISE!” at him. (The Kitty and I had met earlier in the day and stashed the “Correction” cake in his truck so that he could make the switch later.)

The way it worked out it was kind of a small payoff for six months’ work, but it was definitely a surprise for Bernardo. That is, unless there’s a sextuple cross in the works.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Vintage Wine

As you know, last year The Tragically Hip were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. They shouldn’t have been. Now don’t get me wrong. I think The Hip are a great band, but an honour like this should be reserved for the end of a band’s career.

Meanwhile, another band has been tragically overlooked year after year. I am, of course, speaking of April Wine. Formed in 1969, they released their first album in 1971. This was followed by a string of hit albums until they finally broke up in 1986. They reunited in 1992 and have been recording and touring ever since.

Over the years they had many gold and platinum records. Their album The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy was the first Canadian album to ship platinum in Canada. Their concerts set many attendance records that will never be broken (due to stricter fire regulations). And they probably had more hit singles than any other Canadian band until The Hip came along. On the radio today, they get more airplay than any other Canadian band of their era.

I urge you to write to CARAS, the custodians of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and demand that this injustice be righted.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Our daycare is divided into two groups. Upstairs is the infant room, where the smallest children are cared for. It’s filled with very safe-looking toys that foster motor development and has a constant soundtrack of happy baby music. There are never more than three or four babies at a time there. When the child reaches sixteen months or so and is walking well, they move downstairs to the big kids’ area. It’s a larger group of kids representing the full range of pre-kindergarten ages, with more rowdiness and rambunction. It’s been hard for me to picture my bookish little girl in that setting, but the time had clearly long since come. She’s nearing nineteen months now and is only starting to take little series of unsteady headlong steps. Ever since the paediatrician recommended the consultation with the orthopaedic surgeon, we’ve redoubled our efforts to get Baby Dog walking. I’ve made a point every day of playing “Walk to Daddy.” I prop her up with her back to the couch then hunker down a few steps away and tell her to walk to me. She plunges gleefully in my direction, and I pick her up before she falls, swooping her into the air and calling out “Good walking!” Then I have her walk back to the couch and repeat. Every day she got better at it, managing to stay upright for longer periods of time. The daycare, too, was spurred by the doctor’s concern. They have more time to work with Baby Dog and greater expertise in teaching children to walk. Every day, she was getting more practice and more encouragement from all of her caregivers. She’s still not quite a walker, but our collective diligence has paid off to the point that she’s finally graduated downstairs to the big kids’ room. Baby Dog’s first graduation! Felicitations to my little girl.

Today, Halmonie arrived in Oakland to stay. She’s at our house for the night but moves into her new apartment tomorrow, then house-hunting commences in earnest. We’ve been telling Baby Dog about this for some time, but I’m not sure how much is getting through. I’ll say, “Halmonie’s going to be living in Oakland, and then you’ll get to see her every day.” Without fail, Baby Dog repeats “Every day!” Whether or not she understands those words is anybody’s guess, but she sure seems to like the sound of them. She was thrilled with Halmonie’s appearance this evening. Next to Mama Dog and me, Halmonie has been the most constant presence in Baby Dog’s life since the day she was born. She’s the person whose absence Baby Dog most clearly notes. When Halmonie is in Santa Barbara, Baby Dog continues to talk about her. She finds her picture in a photo album and says “Halmonie watch?” pointing at the wristwatch on Halmonie’s wrist, with which Baby Dog is always thrilled to be allowed to play. When I let her play with my cell phone, more often not the call she pretends to make is to Halmonie. She holds the phone to her neck, saying, “Hi, Halmonie? Baby Dog there?”

Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day, so I’ve decided to continue to be like Johnny Carson in the 80s and pile on the guest hosts. paul will be filling in for me. I must warn you that he has threatened to write about some shitty band from the seventies. He might have been joking, but knowing him I rather imagine not.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Doggie Dork Collar

Doggie Dog got in a bit of a scrap with another dog in the dog walker’s truck last night. It didn’t seem any big deal at first – in fact, Mr. Fisher forgot to mention it to us until Mama Dog saw that Doggie Dog’s eye seemed to be injured and she asked him about it. There had been no sign of injury at first, but it started to get gross and oozy in the evening. We wiped the ooze away and put a little Neosporin on what seemed to be the injured area. The next day I was home with Baby Dog and noticed that Doggie Dog seemed particularly mopey and listless. Towards the end of the day I took a look at his eye and was alarmed. It was not only oozy but terribly red. Mama Dog wouldn’t be home until after five, but I called the vet’s and they said they could see him at six, so I made the appointment.

In a weird way, it was kind of a relief to take the dog to the vet to be treated for an injury. Paying for someone else’s pet to go to the vet or taking him to get checked out for rabies from whatever he killed in the yard is a lot more distressing to me. At least, if his injury is fairly minor, which this turned out to be. The vet’s verdict was a nick to the eyelid; there was no sign of any corneal scratching, so we all breathed a sight of relief…particularly Doggie Dog, who is always happy to see the end of a vet visit.

We were given eye drops, which Mama Dog has to administer. Injury to the eye is like Kryptonite to me. I can’t even watch eye drops be administered, let alone ever take them myself. Doggie Dog doesn’t seem to enjoy it much either. The vet had to muzzle him to get the first dose of drops in, but Mama Dog seems to be managing okay with it. He’s our dog, after all.

We also got the doggie dork collar, the canine equivalent of buck teeth and horn rims held together with masking tape. It seemed an awful indignity for our proud beast, but it seemed the only way to stop him from pawing at the wound and slowing the healing process. That is, it would be a way to stop him from pawing at the wound and slowing the healing process if we had a house large enough to accommodate both the furniture and the dog with the satellite dish around his neck. While we were trying to watch Olivier’s Hamlet last night, our poor old dog kept bumping his collar first on the coffee table then on the couch. He’d turn around in circles then stand staring at us, panting in bewilderment and blotting out the screen with his bloody great collar. I eventually got him to lie down and we were able to continue on through the end of the big soliloquy before Mama Dog ran out of steam. When Doggie Dog came in to sleep by the bed, it became clear that the collar wasn’t going to work. We have a small bedroom and a large bed, and the passage between bed and wall is ordinarily a close fit for a big dog. With the extra six inches of circumference around his head, things got tragicomic fast. He tried to squeeze in on Mama Dog’s side, collar scraping against the wall. Then he backed up and tried to find a place at the foot, but when he tried to turn around three times (as is apparently necessary before lying down), the collar thwacked first against the dresser then against the footboard, then bounced off the floor. Being a reasonable dog, he did the reasonable thing; he tried squeezing in the narrow passage that had thwarted him before, thinking perhaps that it had widened itself in the time he was bouncing off the dresser. “That collar has to come off,” I said. As I got up to turn on the light, there was another thwack and a scrape and I saw that indeed the collar had come off. Doggie Dog had managed to knock it off his head. For once it was good that we don’t tend to assemble things properly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Now a Joke for all the Chemists in the Audience

So, yesterday I was getting my morning tea in the lunch room when I noticed one of the junior engineers laughing at the coffee machine. There was a post-it stuck to the decaf barrel, saying: “The decaf is actually filled with regular. I screwed up. Dan.” That would be Dan the Chemist, whose talent for disorder is legendary but ordinarily confined to his own office. The junior engineer said, “He’s a chemist! You’d think he’d get the chemicals right.” I hastily scrawled a second post-in note and slapped it at the bottom of Dan’s note. It read “The strength of this coffee has been flagged ‘J,’ estimated.” I suppose I’m micro-tailoring my material here, so you’ll have to trust me – if you’ve ever read a data validation report, that one’s a real knee slapper. Well, maybe a polite chuckle.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Open Present?

Our new copy of ”Itsy Bitsy Spider” showed up at my office today, the replacement for gift from Big Sister that met an ignominious fate. It was a busy day at work and I ended up staying late, then hurrying through pouring rain to get home before Baby Dog went to bed. I made it with time to spare – bath time hadn’t even commenced – and pulled from my case the envelope that contained her new book. “What could this be?” I asked. Baby Dog reached tentatively toward the envelope, but didn’t quite touch it. “Open present?” she asked. Thus perished any doubt I had about whether this past Christmas had made an impression on her. She has processed the routine: wrapped-up thing = present = something to open = STUFF! Right now she remains fairly neutral about the whole thing, and hasn’t grasped the pleasure of doing the actual present-opening (Daddy had to unseal the envelope and pull apart the bubble wrap), but next year…oh, yes, next year. There will be expectations, won’t there? For now, she’s happy just to have Itsy Bitsy (or a reasonable facsimile) back. The book had to be pried out of her hand before she got into the tub, she held on to it through story time and night night songs, and went to sleep clutching it in her right hand.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ten Things You Might Not Have Known About Mama Dog

When Mama Dog was guest blogging herein, she shared with you some of the mysteries of Papa Dog that she has divined in our time together. I think it’s only fair that I return the favour:

1. Mama Dog pretty much always thinks it’s cold, regardless of the actual temperature. This applies to both subsets: “It’s cold in here!” and “It’s cold out!” Sometimes the first exclamation, “It’s cold in here!” has a basis in fact – our house is draughty, the way houses tend to be in climates too warm to necessitate proper insulation. As we live in California, though, the second exclamation “It’s cold out!” is pretty much always shy of accurate.

2. When she was little, Mama Dog was so taken with the cuteness of a cactus that she decided to pet it. Her dad had to remove a bunch of needles from her hands with pliers. While we want her to have a healthy appreciation of nature and crap like that*, we are hoping to discourage Baby Dog from repeating this scenario.

3. Mama Dog is musically talented. She played flute and saxophone when she was in school and occasionally hauls out her guitar to strum. She can also coax recognisable tunes out of Baby Dog’s pianophone. She always plays by ear, just like the best and most honest Republican President of our lifetime.

4. Neither Mama Dog nor I had ever changed a diaper in our lives until the day we left the hospital with Baby Dog. (We’ve both changed a few since then.)

5. Mama Dog has long had a dream of making a Halloween costume involving a “tampolero,” but she’ll have to explain that one to you.

6. In restaurants, Mama Dog customarily announces what she will order (usually after having asked me what I’m going to order), and then changes her mind by the time the server arrives. After the meal, she often concludes she should have ordered what I had. She is aware of this pattern but has never yet tried the seemingly logical tactic of ordering the same thing I do.

7. Mama Dog’s favourite alcoholic beverage is Maker’s Mark bourbon but she hasn’t really had it that often on account of all the trying-to-get-pregnant and getting pregnant and breastfeeding and so forth of recent years.

8. Mama Dog owns the entire Beatles catalogue on vinyl, having won it in a radio station contest when she was a young’un. Score.

9. Chien maman est un francophile et sera probablement très heureux de voir que j'ai écrit ce commentaire en français.

10. Mama Dog has a positive genius for writing thank you notes, a form of writing that always reduces me to creative paralysis. In fact, early in our acquaintance after I received my first thank you note from the future Mama Dog, I observed that she was the only person in knew of my generation who had “uh, whaddayacall…manners.”
*You may infer from my phrasing here that when I say “we,” I mean it in the sense of “Mama Dog.” It would not be untrue to deny that it is false to say this inference is not incorrect.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

No Time for Sergeants

Or corporals. Or privates. Or officers of any rank. Or posting. But tomorrow will be another day.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Baby, Be of Use

Back before five years of trying to conceive sobered us up, Mama Dog and I had a little joke about our theoretical offspring which involved bartending duty as one of the little tyke’s chores. “Make Daddy a martini, and this time don’t skimp on the olives” (spoken in a Foster Brooks voice) was the punchline.

We’ve never really made much of a big deal about Christmas, what with it following so closely after Mama Dog’s birthday and our wedding anniversary, but when I heard about the Baby Be of Use Bundle from McSweeney’s, I just had to get them for Mama Dog. These are two little board books, just like the ones Baby Dog spends her days poring through. The first is called Baby, Mix Me a Drink, and it consists of a series of illustrated cocktail instructions to help baby prepare a hair of the dog for each primary caregiver. The very first page says “Mama wants a martini,” and shows a vodka bottle silhouette plus a vermouth bottle silhouette plus a long spoon and a mixing cup with olives equalling a perfect martini in a martini glass. Later pages show baby how to make a margarita for daddy (who would actually prefer single malt scotch neat with water back, baby), a Bloody Mary for grandma, an old fashioned for grandpa, and a champagne cocktail for nanny. It ends with a cheery “Thank you, baby! And please pass the pretzels!”

Baby, Make Me Breakfast, which is effectively the sequel, shows how to make mommy a half grapefruit, a soft boiled egg, some toast, a cup of coffee, and a couple of aspirin, and ends with, “Thank you, baby! (Now scoot, Mama’s hung.)”

Unsurprisingly, Mama Dog was entertained by these books for about ninety seconds and then decided that maybe they should just be added to Baby Dog’s library. There they quickly achieved favourite status, and have added several new words (i.e., “martini”) and phrases to Baby Dog’s vocabulary. “Scoot! Hung!” she exclaims when looking at the last page of the breakfast book. She was so interested in the word “pretzels” that I had to share some of my own pretzels with her the other day. We don’t usually let her eat and food that – well, any food that I’d eat if I was single – but in the realm of junk food, pretzels are fairly innocuous. I broke her off a little piece, and she gobbled it quickly. “They’re salty,” I told her. “Salty!” she agreed. “Good! More pretzel?”

Baby Dog is close to having the words of these books memorised, though I don’t think she quite gets their instructional intent. At any rate, I’m going to wait until she’s figured out how to feed herself before I let her touch any of my good glassware.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Why I Had Mama Dog Post for Me the Last Couple of Days

So, the index finger on my right hand started hurting this week. I don’t remember when I first noticed it, but by Tuesday morning it was bad enough that I mentioned it to Mama Dog. I told her that I thought I was finally getting the carpal tunnel. I’ve long been perversely proud that I’ve typed for a living for nigh on twenty years and have never had even a hint of the carp. I’ve always attributed it to two crucial peculiarities. First, although I type faster than 100 wpm, I don’t do it properly; I’ve never learned to touch type. Apparently, repetitive stress happens to people who dutifully keep their fingers on home keys and strike the keys the same way each and every time. I don’t. I’m all over the place. Secondly, I shun the mouse almost entirely, though that’s become more and more difficult as software is increasingly catering to people who’ve not only never learned to type properly but have never learned to type at all. The pain was all in my mousing finger, so I was set to blame all the Sunday drivers who’ve forced that hideous accessory on those of us who know how to use a keyboard.

Tuesday night as I was finishing up with whatever it was I was doing at the computer, I found that I could barely click the hideous accessory. I shut down using my left hand and went to bed hoping it would feel better in the morning. It didn’t. it felt worse. Every time I wok up during the night, I became conscious of pain in my finger. When I got up in the morning, I found that not only did my index finger hurt like hell, but the pain had spread down to my wrist. I couldn’t move my right finger without searing pain, and since moving my hand moved my right finger, that meant my right hand was effectively out of commission.

Baby Dog had her 18½ month check-up that morning. Since it was my day off, I was going to take her, but the pain in my hand was so intense that I figured I needed to see a doctor myself. As it turned out, Dr. Homer was able to see me at 9:30, exactly the same time Baby Dog was to see the paediatrician. We decided that Mama Dog would drop me off at my doctor’s, take Baby Dog to the paediatrician, and then rendezvous at my doctor’s office when we were both done. She’d drop off Baby Dog with the stroller, I’d stroll her home, and Mama Dog would go on to work.

It took Dr. Homer about five minutes to make the diagnosis: gout. “You’re kidding,” sez I. “Well, no,” sez he. I told him how Baby Dog had the croup a couple months back. “I feel like we’re being attacked by the eighteenth century,” I said. That made the doctor laugh, so I filed it away for later use in the blog, because that’s the way life works once you start blogging. Since then, I’ve added: “What’s next? The ague? The vapours? Black bile?”

Gout, if you’re curious, is a painfully swelling in a joined caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals. I should hasten to point out, anecdotally, that IT HURTS LIKE FUCKING HELL! Dr. Homer prescribed some pain pills and some anti-inflammatory pills. I was already taking Thursday off to get some dental work done – good timing at least – and he said I ought to be okay to work by Friday. He also ordered a blood test to confirm the diagnosis, so I hobbled across the hall to get that, asking the nurse as I went to tell Mama Dog where to find me.

Mama Dog and Baby Dog showed up at 10:20ish, right as I was about to get the bloodwork done. Mama Dog had a 10:30 meeting, so she had to dash off. I let Baby Dog play for a while with the baby toys in the waiting room and had just started reading her Gerald McBoing Boing when they called my name. I lifted Baby Dog with my left arm and as I struggled to strap her into the stroller one-handed, it occurred to me how difficult it was going to be to look after her all day. One thing at a time, though. I wheeled her into the little partitioned bloodletting cubicle and she watched with keen interest as the technician tied a tube around my arm and swabbed me with alcohol. I don’t generally watch when I get blood drawn. I’m not needlephobic or anything – I have six tattoos after all – I just don’t like to watch the blood coming out. Baby Dog, on the other hand was all attention. She seemed to find the process quite novel and interesting.

When we were done, we started wheeling our way erratically down Telegraph Avenue. I had my useless right hand tucked up against my chest with an ice pack wrapped around it and my left arm crooked awkwardly because the big bandage the technician had wrapped around my elbow chafed under my jacket. The wheels of the stroller are capricious, so it wasn’t easy to steer left-handed. I would reach down and make necessary course corrections with my right forearm. We sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I Know and Old Lady,” and every now and then I would look up and hope the rain wasn’t going to start again anytime soon.

We stopped on the way at the pharmacy to drop off my Rx. It wouldn’t be ready for a half hour. Baby Dog was overdue for a snack and probably a change, and I couldn’t see her waiting happily in the stroller while the pharmacy staff took a half hour to move my pills from one bottle to another. I said we’d come back later in the afternoon, and we headed on home.

I talked to Mama Dog at nap time. I told her I’d had no idea how difficult it was going to be to do things left-handed. Like changing a diaper, for instance. I managed to get the old diaper off, wipe, and put the new diaper on, but when it came time to get Baby Dog’s pants back on, I was stymied. I just couldn't’ get them up and over the diaper with just my left hand. Finally I figured out that I had to stand her up on the changing table and have her hold on to my shoulders as I pulled her pants up. I had to come up with little accommodations like that for pretty much every routine childrearing task. I almost hit the breaking point when I made her lunch. Peanut butter toast. We keep the peanut butter in the fridge, so it’s always kind of hard. Every tried spreading cold peanut butter on toast with one hand? Ever tried doing it with only the hand that’s not dominant? Trust me, it ain’t easy. I kept thinking of Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, lighting cigarettes claw-handed. He seemed to me more heroic than ever. Mama Dog offered to pick up the meds on the way home from work so that I wouldn’t have to go out again, but I figured that the sooner I had my pills the better. By the time Baby Dog was up from her nap, it was sunny out, without a hint of rain, so we set out once again for the expedition to the pharmacy.

Guess what? When I got home with the pills, I realised the obvious problem. Figured it out yet? Childproof motherfucking caps. Stop and meditate on that for a minute or two. A chap has an illness debilitating his right hand, so you give him pills in bottles that require two hands to be opened. Short of dropping the pill bottles on the floor and stomping on them, there was no way I was getting them open. I might as well have taken Mama Dog up on her offer to pick the pills up, since I wasn’t going to be able to take them until she got home.

I’m happy to report, though, that once I was able to take the pills, they worked. By the time I went to sleep Wednesday night, with just one dosage in me, my hand was already feeling less crippled. When I woke up Thursday morning, the pain was finally confined again to my right index finger. Thursday night, after three more doses, I could actually move the bad finger, though I couldn’t bend it. As I type now – and I’ve been using my right index finger extensively through this long post – it feels pretty close to normal. I still get a jolt of pain if I do something ill-advised, but it’s getting milder and less frequent. So hurrah for modern medicine. And if you’ve never had gout, take it from me – you don’t want it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Papa Dog

[Mama Dog Duvalier is guest blogging again today. Papa Dog will return tomorrow.]

If you've been following Papa Dog's Blog for a while, you may think that you know him fairly well: his interests, his temperament, his sensibilities, his pet peeves, etc. Well, being married to the guy for going-on seven years, I can assuredly say that I know Papa Dog better than anyone else does. And some of the things I know about him are quite funny!

Here goes:

1. Papa Dog, who now sports neatly shorn hair, once wore his coif and beard in a manner that resembled a touring bass player for the Guess Who, circa 1974. (They are a Canadian band!)

2. Despite Papa Dog's sweet musings about Baby Dog, he is no softy when it comes to disciplining Doggy Dog. He is downright draconian when it comes to keeping the dog out of the living room, off the dinner table, and off the furniture. (I, on the other hand, am quite lenient when it comes to Doggy Dog. Wonder how this dichotomy will play out when Baby Dog gets more independent?)

3. Papa Dog detests mushrooms (because toads put their asses on them), seafood (and anything that dwelt in the sea), tomatoes (because they look like blood), eggs (I don't know why, but it's probably because they come out of a chicken's ass), and tofu (because its consistency is rubbery and gross and it's made by Chinese hippies).

4. Papa Dog's motto regarding his job is: "Though it's not worth doing, it's worth doing well."

5. Papa Dog is rather fetishistic about shoe-shine equipment. He bought himself a monogrammed, mahogany shoe-shine kit from Red Envelope, but still hasn't used the damned thing. Instead, he gets his shoes shined on Market Street when the whim strikes.

6. Papa Dog is obsessed with Godiva chocolate with chocolate hearts ice cream and eats it every day. He licks the plate clean when he's done.

7. Papa Dog can memorize anything. Kids' books in their entirety, his own short stories, song lyrics, John Waters' no-smoking announcement that used to play before movies at the UC Theatre... he's got an elephant's memory!

8. Papa Dog lives in his green velour bathrobe when he's at home. It's like 9 years old and is pretty ratty, but it's his favourite garment.

9. Though his musical tastes lean toward the folky and smoky, he has admitted to liking that song by Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'," which, I must admit, totally rocked as an end credits song in last year's film, "Monster."

10. Papa Dog is the most generous person I've ever known. His heart is bigger than the Grinch's (after he learned his lesson).

I hope this post doesn't embarrass you, Papa Dog. You are free to lambaste my ass on my blog any time, if you wish.

xoxox, Mama Dog

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Eighteen Month Check-Up

[Hi - it's Mama Dog Duvalier, filling in for Papa Dog, who is unable to blog today. The reason for his absence will be revealed soon enough.]

Today I took Baby Dog in for her 18-month paediatrician check-up, even though she's nearly 19 months. It sucked.

Baby Dog has developed a rather acute case of separation anxiety recently (daycare drop-offs are now loud, teary, and mournful goodbyes) which seem to have expanded to a more general anxiety about anything that is not familiar, e.g., the doctor's office and the doctor. As soon as the nurse came in to check Baby's vitals, bawling began. Baby squirmed so violently on the scale, in fact, that it was difficult for the staff to get an accurate read. (She weighs 25.75 lbs - holding strong at 70th percentile; her height is 33.25 inches - 95th percentile.) The crying did not stop when the doctor came in to do the exam. The cold stethoscope didn't help matters, nor did the funny conical instrument that is used to examine baby's ears. During the crying, I went over my list of concerns and questions with the doctor: Is she drinking enough milk? (12-20 oz per day is fine.) Is she ready for potty training? (Sure, if she seems interested.) Why is she having separation anxiety all of a sudden? (It's a phase she's going through. Totally normal.) Is it normal that she's not walking yet?

The doctor said, "Well, no, it's not normal. Almost all kids at this age are walking. Let's put her down on the floor so that I can observe her walk."

So, I put Baby Dog on the floor, barefoot, held her hands, and encouraged her to take a few steps in the hallway. She was still crying and upset, of course, and the towering, white-coated people in the hallway observing her did not make performing her large motor skill abilities any easier. While Baby Dog took a few wobbly steps, I trained my eyes on the doctor's face, trying to gauge the degree of seriousness in her expression. She looked quite concerned, which troubled me deeply.

After the walking observation, our doctor asked me if Baby Dog has always walked in that manner - with her toes splayed out and her knees straight. I said, "I guess so," though it seemed as though the walking was less graceful today, given the stressfulness of the moment. "I'm concerned with her gait and want to have it checked out by a pediatric orthopaedist," the doctor said.

So, I got the sawbones' card and promised to make an appointment for Baby Dog ASAP. "Please call me and let me know what he says," our doctor requested. She really does care about Baby Dog.

The doctor said goodbye and left us in the room, to await the vaccinations, which always seem to take forever to prepare. I didn't have any books with me, which made the 15 minute wait seem particularly grueling. I sat with Baby Dog on my lap, stroked her head, and cooed at her, which successfully calmed her down before Nurse Pepe came in with his two syringes of DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Acellular Pertussis) and IPV (polio) vaccines. The moment Baby Dog eyed the needles, she burst into tears again. Thankfully, it didn't last long, and we were out of there in no time. I hurriedly dropped Baby Dog off w/ Papa Dog and went to work.

I couldn't concentrate for the first half of the day; all I could think about were worst case scenarios having to do with Baby Dog never being able to walk, or finding out that there's something horribly wrong with her legs or feet. With these new concerns about my child's health fresh in mind, my job seemed lame and meaningless. I wanted to quit right then and there and spend every minute of my time with Baby Dog. Guilt had taken over - I blamed myself for not being with Baby Dog during these crucial past few months. I got myself so worked up that I had to go to the bathroom and cry.

I'll make an appointment with the bone doctor tomorrow. Until we know what's going on with Baby Dog's walking, I'll have to be strong. I can't keep falling apart in the bathroom about this. Though I am powerless about this particular outcome, I can change the way I react. I am Mummy, damn it! I am the steely monolith of strength that holds my little fur family together.

On the bright side, Baby Dog's verbal abilities were pronounced by the doc to be "phenomenal." She's speaking at the level of a two-year-old. (But we already knew that, didn't we?)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Down Came the Handle and Flushed the Spider Out

Unsurprisingly, Baby Dog made out like a little bandita in Edmonton, though of course she’s still (at least) one Christmas away from really appreciating the phenomenon of Getting Stuff. She’s gained a whole new menagerie of hand puppet rodentia – a beaver, a squirrel, a porcupine, and a chipmunk. She got all sorts of books and puzzles and toys and clothing items. Perhaps predictably, one of the more modest items has become her cherished favourite. Auntie Big Sister gave her (in addition to the rodents and other stuff) a little board book of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Baby Dog had very limited familiarity with this old standard, and when Auntie Big Sister showed her the traditional hand gestures that accompany the song, she was hooked. We’ve since had to add a Raffi version (unhappily titled “Eensy Weensy Spider”) to Baby Dog’s Greatest Hits on the Napster. It now rivals “I Know an Old Lady” for the number one with a bullet spot.

The little board book did sturdy duty on the long trek home from Edmonton and has become one of Baby Dog’s most requested books. I try not to prejudice Baby Dog with my own tastes in literature, but really. It’s got about twenty seconds worth of text* that really doesn’t amount to much if you don’t sing and make the creepy-crawly motions with your hands. It lacks the pathos of “Are You My Mother?,” the magical realism of “Good Night Moon,” the subversive wit of “Green Eggs and Ham,” or the koan-like repetition of “Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?,” but what’s a chap to do? The baby wants what the baby wants. She wants to hear “Itsy Bitsy Spider” twenty times a day, that’s what she gets.

It’s with great sadness, then, that I must report on the fate of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” board book (and I hope this won’t chagrin Auntie Big Sister unduly). Last night we made the strategic error of letting Baby Dog read “Itsy Bitsy Spider” while she ate her supper. Ordinarily the only books we let her look at on the high chair are her bath books (“Otter Be Clean” and “Whale Tale,” “What a Pig” being reserved for actual bath use), since they’re made to be immersible and are easily cleaned. Well, this turned out to be a rather sloppy meal with food consumed not via spoon but via meaty little fists. By the time it was over, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” was an unseemly mess, smeared with avocado, greased with cheese residue, and stuccoed with tofu chunks. Baby Dog was even filthier than the book. When we were done cleaning her up and ready to release her to the living room, she inquired “Itsy bitsy spider?” “I don’t think so,” I said, distracting her with another book. After bath time, I hid itsy bitsy spider away in the bathroom so she wouldn’t see it and ask for it before it could be properly cleaned. That was error #2; out of sight was out of mind, and we forgot about the book for the rest of the night.

This morning as we were getting ready for the day, I heard Mama Dog in the bathroom exclaiming in dismay. She had been attempting to scrape tofu off the book when it slipped out of her hand. Not necessarily a dire turn of events, but she’d been scraping the tofu into the toilet, and that’s where the book landed. “So much for that one,” I observed.

I know better than to think the absence of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” will go unnoticed and unremarked upon. I’ve already ordered a replacement from Amazon. I only hope it arrives before Baby Dog starts to pine openly.
*For those who don’t know the story: the spider (who is not only itsy but also bitsy) climbs up the water spout (in this version, the garden spout) and is washed out by the rain. Subsequently, the sun emerges and causes the rain to evaporate, whereupon the spider resumes its clearly futile ascent.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Animal Prisons: Club Fed in the Morning, San Quentin in the Afternoon

So, Sunday morning came around and we’d had a possum biodegrading under our washtub for almost a week. Its presence had been causing Mama Dog great distress, and the lack of responsiveness from Animal Control just compounded things. We decided to throw caution to the wind and pack the thing up to Fruitvale ourselves. If we had to line the trunk with air fresheners afterwards and perhaps perform an exorcism, so be it.

First though, we had an engagement with the Pirates. We were to meet them at the Royal Café – the one way up on San Pablo in Albany, not Mama’s Royal Café way down on Broadway in Oakland (and a good thing we established which one before meeting, too). When we got there we were surprised to find Papa Pirate by himself. Baby Pirate had taken sick and he had been dispatched as a solitary envoy to keep our meeting.

After breakfast, Papa Pirate checked in and learned that Baby Pirate seemed to be keeping her food down after all. We formulated a plan to all meet at the Little Farm. We went ahead with Papa Pirate and Mama and Baby Pirate would follow shortly thereafter. When we got to the farm, Mama Dog took Baby Dog into the ladies’ room for a change, and Papa Pirate and I malingered about the visitors centre. Inevitably, I bought something from the gift shop, a little stuffed cow for baby dog. For as much as she has adored cows since her very earliest days of discernible adoration, she’s never had a cow doll. The time had come to change that.

We then went off to the farm to see real cows, plus goats and pigs and ducks and roosters and geese and bunny rabbits. We’d never made it out to the farm so early before, and ten a.m. on a Sunday is evidently the time to go. The farmer fellow – I’m not certain, but I believe his name might be Mr. Greenjeans – led a baby cow out from the enclosure and tied her to a fencepost where she could be petted by all and sundry. Baby Dog managed to feed her a bit of celery, which was a thrill and a delight. Later, we saw goats being taken out for a walk, led on ropes by tiny little volunteer girls who seemed barely able to control them. Later still, one of the baby pigs went out for a constitutional, not on a rope but flanked by volunteers holding up red shields that apparently force it to walk the straight and narrow. A third volunteer led the pig by means of dropping blueberry scone crumbs.

We had been at the farm a while and had seen all the sights when Papa Pirate commenced to worry that his wife and daughter had yet to show. He tried calling, but of course there was no cell signal in that pastoral refuge. Eventually, a couple came up to us and asked if he was waiting for his wife and daughter. He said yes. “They’re waiting in the parking lot,” they said. “The baby fell asleep. She told us twenty minutes ago, but we forgot. Sorry.” As we walked back to the parking lot, several more people passed the same message on. Apparently, Mama Pirate had been asking all passers-by to alert the guy with the shaved head and the black sweatshirt to her presence, but they all waited for half an hour to let us know.

Baby Pirate woke up when we got there and was raring to see the critters, but Baby Dog was winding down, so we opted to head home. Making baby timelines intersect is always such a delicate negotiation.

After snack time and nap time and lunch time, we finally were ready to take a trip to a different sort of animal facility. I gingerly lifted the tub off our little friend, trying not to breathe through my nose. Happily, the garbage bags were still intact and there was nothing particularly gross to be seen. Because of the tub, it hadn’t even been rained on. Just to be safe, I wrapped it up in one more bag and plopped the whole thing in a cardboard box.

At the animal shelter, we were ready to get our dudgeon high, and Mama Dog did start to express displeasure, but we didn’t get very far with it. We quickly learned that the centre is chronically understaffed and overworked. There didn’t seem to be any point in berating them for being unable to keep pace with the animal death rate. We left the possum and took off.

First we stopped in to see some of the live animals. There were more kittycats and Baby Dog’s second set of bunnies for the day. We looked in on the dogs and that was as always a dreadful and depressing sight. In one row of kennels, every last dog had shit on the floor of its cage. There’s a yard right on the property, and we saw dogs frolicking in it as we arrived; were they just neighbourhood dogs? Don’t the ones who live in the shelter ever get to go out? The place is dismal and sad and I couldn’t wait to get Baby Dog out of there.

Later that night, I was getting Baby Dog ready for bed when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and turned on the outside light to see an Animal Control officer standing on our doorstep. “Hi,” she said, “we had a call about a dead animal, but I can’t seem to find it.” I suddenly realised why I recognised her. “I just dropped it off with you this afternoon,” I said. “Sorry, I was going to call tonight and say not to come…didn’t think anyone would get the message until tomorrow.” She told us that they’re skeleton staffed – they have six officers to cover all of Oakland. That’s nuts, given how many dog complaints I know there must be each and every day. We’re still annoyed that our call went unanswered for a week, but now we’re a bit less certain who’s deserving of the wrath. We’ll be writing to our City Councilmember about the situation. This little corner of the system definitely needs improving.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Whoops (again).

I was just about to sit down and blog before bed when I suddenly remembered the package of freelance work I’d received Friday afternoon. It’s due Monday morning and I’d plain forgot about it all weekend. Fortunately, it wasn’t that much so I was able to get it done, but now I’m up past my bedtime. So nothing much from me tonight.

We’re finally possum-free. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow, unless I screw the pooch again.*
*By which I don’t mean that I have sexual relations with my dog. Just a colourful expression for failure.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Quickie Before Bed

We went to Costco today to get what one gets at Costco – great quantities of various defecation accessories. Mama Dog got a membership at Costco back in the days when she was working for a software company and was professionally required to visit the place for store checks. I’ve never bothered to have my own membership. As we were leaving the store, Mama Dog decided I should get one – rather whimsically, really, since it’s anyone’s guess how she would ever expect me to get out to the place without her driving. Nonetheless I agreed and handed Baby Dog over to Mama Dog. I was thinking “Too bad I can’t have the baby in the picture with me” when the Costco guy said, “Do you want to have the baby in the picture with you?” “Yes,” I replied. “Yes, I do.” So there I am on my plumb useless Costco membership, nuzzled cheekmeal with Baby Dog.

In other items – today the little girl said “I love you, Mummy,” too.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Dead Possum Update

The possum’s been decomposing in the bag under the washtub for an entire work week now. (Unless it’s been playing itself, I suppose.) Mama Dog and I have left about four messages now on the animal control line. I am beginning to suspect this animal control line is something like a suggestion box that nobody ever checks. Unfortunately, no human ever seems to answer the line. I assume my best shot at reaching a human would be during working hours, but during working hours I am – yes, you guessed right – working. Even if I had time to wait on hold, the likelihood of my remembering to make the call in the first place is slim. And even if I remembered to make the call, I’d feel weird calling without knowing for sure whether or not the carcass has been picked up. I can’t look out the door and check, you see, because I’m at work. So I come home after work, find the erstwhile marsupial still rotting by my gate, and grow ever more irritated. I’m really starting to worry about the attendant health risks of keeping a dead possum as a boarder.

Last night while walking Doggy Dog, I happened to notice a guy peering into a car window. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then he walked down to the next parked car and peered into the window of that one too. There have been many recent car break-ins on that block, so my suspicions were aroused. When I got home, I called the police like a good non-citizen. I dialled the OPD non-emergency line. I listened to the various menu options. None of them seemed to apply. I was ruminating on another course of action, another number I might call, when the dispatcher picked up. Apparently if you don’t select any options, the dispatcher picks up. As in most areas of human endeavour, the result is that the dull-witted and the confused end up with an advantage. I happily took this advantage, and reported the suspicious behaviour I’d witnessed. The dispatcher promised to send a car out to investigate. I hung up with a little warm glow, knowing I’d done my part to help the man keep the people down. I am so a home owner now.

Tonight when I got home from work and found that the possum was still out there and still dead*, the obvious suddenly occurred to me: the OPD non-emergency number is the exact same damn number I’d been calling to report the dead possum. If I ignored the touchtone maze and didn’t press any buttons, the dispatcher would pick up and I could talk to a live human. I did that, and the lady was very apologetic. She sent a message off to animal control and advised me of the direct line for the Animal Control Sergeant, suggesting I follow up with another call of my own. I thanked her and called the number she gave me. That turned out to be just a shortcut in the touchtone maze, and led to the same voicemail dead end rather than a live human, but I left my most pitiable and desperate message yet. I’m hoping that, coupled with the dispatcher’s message will get us some action this weekend. Wish us luck.

If we’d known it was going to take this long, we would have just driven the thing to the disposal center in Fruitvale earlier in the week. Now it’s been sitting out there decomposing for so long that I’m afraid to lift the washtub off it, let alone put it in our car.
*Better that, I observed to Mama Dog the other night, than packs of zombie possums roaming Lower Rockridge.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What Does Baby Dog Say?

A favourite pastime of Baby Dog’s is the “What does the animal say?” quiz. Originally, this was a means by which Mama Dog and I helped expand our child’s vocabulary. We’d ask “What does the kittycat say?” and Baby Dog would delight us by replying with a high-pitched “Meow, meow.” In the last couple months, Baby Dog has started taking the lead in these inquisitions. “Doggy say?” she asks. “Woof, woof,” we dutifully reply. It’s a reliable way to pass the time on car trips, or to distract her from the fact that she’s being fed egg whites. We have taught her so well that she’s become a crafty manipulator herself. When she senses that night night songs are winding down and bedtime is imminent, she’ll venture a conversational “Froggy say?” to distract me from the fact that I’m supposed to be zipping her up in her sleepsack.

Baby Dog’s repertoire of animal noises grew to include cats, dogs, cows, horses, sheep, goats, ducks, roosters, hens, turkeys, geese, owls, generic “birdies,” monkeys, gorillas, elephants, fish (“bwoop bwoop”), alligators and crocodiles (they go “SNAP!” with an accompanying sharp full-armed clapping motion), mice, lions, bees, frogs, and probably a bunch of others I’m forgetting. Inevitably, she began to branch out from the animal noises she’d been taught and asked about those critters on whose vocalisation we’d been curiously silent. “Ant say?” she started asking. “I don’t know if the ant says anything. It’s too small to hear.” Her curiosity piqued, she expanded her inquiry outside the animal kingdom. “Moon say?” “The moon doesn’t really say anything, honey.” “Shoes say?” “No, shoes don’t say anything either.” “Flower say?” “No, flowers don’t really say anything.”

After processing this for a while, she came up with another line of inquiry around the time we went to Edmonton. “Daddy say?” she asked. “Daddy says ‘I love you, Baby Dog,’” I told her. Her eyes lit and she went for the follow-up. “Mummy say?” “Mummy says ‘I love you, Baby Dog.’” She immediately saw the next step. “Baby Dog say?” she asked. Hopefully, I told her, “Baby Dog says, ‘I love you, Mummy and Daddy.’” We repeated this numerous times over the days that followed. Every now and then, I’d try asking her what Daddy or Mummy or Baby Dog said, but she would never have the appropriate response handy. Mostly, she just repeated the question.

Yesterday, she said for the first time: “I love you, Daddy.” Granted, the question I’d asked her was “What does Daddy say,” but we’re getting there.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ten Things to Do With a Dead Opossum

(This is a guest post from Mama Dog. Please also note that the dead opossum pictured is not the actual one in our front yard. To see the actual dead possum in our front yard, come on over and look under the washtub. Animal control still hasn't visited.)

1. Exhume, dry, then stuff and use as a decorative pillow
2. Conduct an experiment in putrefaction
3. Leave on doorstep of your enemy
4. Stew?
5. Remove carcass from skeleton, then display bones in a curio cabinet
6. Leave in play area at neighborhood park, hide behind big tree, and watch reactions of parents and small children as they come across the maggoty carcass
7. Give back to the dog, to play with
8. Throw in the middle of the street. Bet Animal Control will come sooner that way.
9. Place at bottom of box of old clothes slated for the Salvation Army. Surprise!
10. Let corpse disintegrate on front porch, thereby scaring away those pesky environmental canvassers.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Brief Interval of Guilty Pride

Yesterday I took Doggy Dog for a twenty-minute walk in the rain so he could go get a rabies booster. I called the vet to see what was necessary after his encounter with the possum. She said he was due for a rabies shot in the summer, so he might as well come in early just to be on the safe side.

When I first called the vet’s I tried to skirt the details with the nurse/receptionist who answered the phone, a little ashamed to say why my dog needed to be seen. She persisted in questioning my generalities, and I finally blurted out “He killed a possum last night.” When we arrived at the clinic, they pulled the chart and a different nurse/receptionist said, “Oh, he got a possum, huh?” I looked at my Baffin Boots and said, “Yeah, he did.” The guy next to me in line looked up, eyes wide. “He got a possum?” he asked, pointing at Doggy Dog. The guy was clearly impressed, and I felt my attitude helplessly lurching from “ashamed urban dog owner” to “guy who has a tough-ass muh’fuh’n dog.” “Yeah,” I said with practiced nonchalance. “How big is that?” “Oh, just about the size of a really big cat,” I said, modestly downplaying. I held the leash close to the collar. Stand back – vicious beast here. Rip your balls off if I tell him to. “He ever take on a raccoon?” “Naw, I hope he never does. He’d probably still kill the raccoon, but he’d get hurt. They’re vicious fighters.” “Yeah,” the guy agreed, “big claws. Tear a dog open.”

I was told to expect a 20-30 minute wait before we’d be seen. Doggy Dog’s not very good in the waiting room – he eventually starts to whine and bark, and gets agitated with the presence of other dogs – so I said we’d go for a walk. I had my cell phone with me and miraculously dredged up the number from the memory of Mama Dog telling it to me just before we went to Edmonton. I had to have them call it just to be sure. We went back out in the drizzle, malingering all the way up to the Walgreen’s. When we got back to the vicinity of the clinic, my cell rang and we went in. A nurse took us in to weigh Doggy Dog. She looked at his chart and said, “So he got a possum last night?” “Yes he did,” I said unequivocally. My dog kills! He also weighs 89.5 pounds, all the diet and exercise since our last visit having apparently had some effect.

We waited a few more minutes until a tattooed tech came in to take his temperature. She looked at the chart. “Hey, he killed a possum, huh?” “You bet!” I enthused, holding Doggy Dog’s head so she could slip the thermometer up his bunghole. Temperature normal, condemnation negative; we got a cookie.

The doctor finally made an appearance. She looked at the chart and said – all together now – “So he got a possum last night, did he?” “Killed the hell out of him!” I averred, patting Doggy Dog’s head. She checked him for cuts and scratches (none) and gave him his shot. Good for another three years. Then we went out into the lobby for the interminable wait for paperwork. I paid and we got the rabies certification to be turned in to the OPD. The rain had stopped when we finally left. At home, the possum carcass was still sitting under the washtub outside our gate. Animal Control was apparently not working on the day after New Years. Hope they come today. Once that thing starts stinking I’m sure I’ll make a rapid return to ashamed urban dog owner.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Avenuu: An Appreciation

It doesn’t seem possible that more than twelve years have passed since I first met Avenuu. It seems just as unlikely that so much time has passed since I last saw her that I’ve never even met her three-year-old son. But there you go – that’s time, and that’s life, passing by without pause.

I met her the way I tended to meet women back then, which is to say I tried feebly to scam on her at a bar. Worse, she was only one of three pretty young thangs ten years my junior on whom I was trying simultaneously to scam. We were at Checkpoint Charlie’s, and I was shooting pool with L (who evaporated on me after one night of really good sex) and V (who quickly revealed herself to be an incredibly irritating waste of chromosomes). Avenuu, who was only watching the game, turned out to be the one I talked to most, and she seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying, no matter how drunk and obnoxious it became. She ended up being my best friend, but it wasn’t easy.

I waged a long and inglorious campaign to get Avenuu in bed with me. It lasted the whole time I lived in New Orleans and then continued after we both moved to the Bay Area. She wasn’t interested in that, but for whatever reason she was interested in being my friend, and somehow didn’t take too great offence when I’d say smoove things like “I’ve already got friends – I want to get laid.” Well, maybe not that exact phrase, but close enough to guarantee the same reaction. She didn’t put up with that shit. She’d get mad, we’d fight…but we always stayed friends.

Looking back now, I see clearly how schizophrenic my behaviour was. I’d veer from the avuncular to the lecherous in one conversation, like some horny drunken uncle bent on incest. I’d try to take care of her, then I’d try to take advantage of her. There was the thing with the water. Even back then, the tap water in New Orleans was unfit to drink; everyone stocked bottled water in their fridges. Avenuu and her roommate went through water very fast and were always running out. However much they’d buy, it would never be enough. I got in the habit of stopping at the store whenever I visited and bringing over a jug or two of water. “You don’t have to do that!” she’d say. “Yes I do,” I’d answer. “I worry you’re going to dehydrate.” I’d be just that sweet and then I’d get all bent out of shape when I didn’t get in her pants. Very confusing, even for me.

The year Avenuu moved to the Bay Area, she came with me to APE. That was back when it was still in San Jose, a long trip by public transit with plenty of time to run through our recurrent patterns of dysfunction. I don’t suppose it helped that we ran into my then-estranged wife (the Less Magnificent Spouse) and I got to wondering how come I hadn’t had a real relationship in seven years. I got into a snit with Avenuu about the usual subject, which really should have been dead and buried by then. She asked something like “Why can’t you be satisfied being friends?” and for the first time I asked myself. “Uh…yeah…why can’t I?” It made me think how good we’d been to each other and for each other over the years, and I really started to wonder why I remained so obsessed with adding a sexual component to this very good thing. I mean, shit, even Ambrose lets it go when he sees it isn’t going anywhere. I resolved then and there to stop trying to be a fuck buddy and start being a friend. I learned finally how to love a woman without sex.

If this were a major motion picture romantic comedy directed by Meathead, a montage would then follow, at the end of which we’d each come to realise that we’d been perfectly suited for each other all along, and live happily ever after. Meathead, of course, doesn’t direct the real world, so what we did instead was embark on what still stands as the closest, most intimate platonic friendship of my life. Though we lived on opposite sides of the Bay and only saw each other once a week, we were one another’s closest confidantes. We vetted one another’s lives. Avenuu was warring with her roommates and pining for New Orleans and I was in a bubble of loneliness and despair. I can’t say what I was to her, but I know at that time she was absolutely essential to me.

She went back to New Orleans and very soon after Mama Dog and I found each other, and here’s the main thing: what I went through with Avenuu made me fit to love Mama Dog properly. Avenuu insisted on me finding my better nature. She made me live up to the faith she had in me. She made me become the decent man that Mama Dog didn’t even know she was looking for.

So…today’s Avenuu’s birthday, and happy birthday, Avenuu. I hope you’re happy in your exile and are keeping well and hydrated. I miss talking the way we used to, and I can’t ever say how grateful I am that you made it possible for me to have the life I have now.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Late Breaking Bulletin

I was engrossed in some freelance work a little while ago when I heard a banging clanging noise. It didn’t recur, so I figured it was just Halmonie doing something in the basement. A while later I heard another thump that seemed to be coming from the bedroom. I asked Mama Dog if she’d made a noise but she hadn’t. I went in to Baby Dog’s room and found her sleeping soundly up against the bars of her crib. Sometimes when she flails about in her sleep, she thumps the crib rails against the wall, so I figured that’s what the second noise was. Then I heard Doggie Dog whining to be let in. He wandered in to the bedroom and greeted Mama Dog, who exclaimed, “Oh, gross!” Doggy Dog had set his chin on the bed and left a smear of blood on the quilt. We examined his muzzle and found a little blood on his chin. Déjà vu all over again. I put on my shoes and grabbed the MagLite and went out to do a quadrant search of the back yard. I checked the side alleys first because they always seem to be the action areas when prey wanders into the yard. I didn’t find anything, but when I came back up the narrow north alley, I practically stepped on the possum remains. I hadn’t seen it on the way in because it was behind the big tub we use to put beverages on ice during barbecues.* So, if you’re keeping track, the body count since we’ve had Doggy Dog is one cat, one squirrel, and now one possum. I surely hope the raccoons steer clear.
*That’ll be getting a good bleaching before the next party, rest assured.

Pineapple Chicken Balls

[Posted by guest blogger, Mama Dog Duvalier.]

A highlight of the Edmonton trip for me was dining on "pineapple chicken balls" at a real Canadian Chinese restaurant. This dish -- which I had ignorantly thought was what Canadians called "sweet and sour chicken," turned out to be a completely different animal. Do you see any evidence of greenery, onion, or carrot in this picture? Do the pieces of chicken remotely resemble "pieces" of meat? No on all accounts. The eponymous "balls" in this dish are medium-small bits of chicken that have been coated in a thick and dense batter, then deep-fried. The chicken center is sort of like the nucleus of a golfball. The golden-yellow fried balls are then drowned in an orange-marmalade-y syrup, then topped with chunks of pineapple, most likely canned.

Don't get me wrong: these things were so tasty, I couldn't eat just one! They're especially good drizzed with soy sauce.

Random Notes from Our Jaunt to Edmonton (no heavy drinking or casual sex described)

Thanks and kudos to Charles for his very entertaining run in the faversham this past week. It was great to have a vacation from the grind for a little while. I didn’t even really look at this page until Charles was three or so days in, and didn’t catch up reading it until we were back from Edmonton. It was very nice to not have that deadline hanging over my head every day.

For those of you who’ve grown accustomed to the presence of actual narrative herein, I’m afraid this instalment will disappoint. I’m feeling inspired by Charles’ serial to dredge up a few more stories from the bad old days, but I’m not ready to do them quite yet. For the moment, I’ll confine myself to a few recollections from my week away.

Traveling with Baby Dog was actually very easy. We got many compliments on her good behaviour from flight attendants, who should know whereof they speak. The first leg of the return trip was particularly easy; our departure happened to coincide with nap time. She fell asleep on takeoff and didn’t wake up until we landed in Salt Lake City an hour and a half later. On the other hand, when we arrived in Edmonton around midnight on Christmas night, she’d been sound asleep for quite some time and stayed that way through customs, baggage claim, and into my sister’s car. Unfortunately, getting her out of her coat and clothes and into her pyjamas for bed proved one disturbance too many. She woke up as I was putting her pyjama top on and seemed disinclined to fall back asleep. I figured I might as well take her upstairs to see all the people who’d been waiting up to meet her, and she put on a happy show of cherubic precocity for her grandparents and aunt and cousins. She seemed particularly taken with a little foam rubber chair belonging to her first cousin once removed; it was just her size and featured a picture of Winnie the Pooh. When we took her back downstairs to go to sleep, it was one in the morning and she was totally wired. That was the roughest night.

The biggest disappointment: as we were making our descent into Edmonton, I looked out the window and said, “Huh, that’s funny. I don’t see any snow.” I thought at first it might be because we were flying over well-ploughed industrial yards, but it turned out to be because there wasn’t any snow. There had been snow, but temperatures had risen in the week before and it had all melted. The temperature was stuck around a wussy zero Celsius the entire time we were there, and no snow came. So much for showing Baby Dog what winter looks like. No snow in Edmonton on Christmas day. Yeah, that global warming’s a myth.

Baby Dog charmed and astounded her relatives with her burgeoning grasp of language and her habit of pointing out (correctly) letters wherever she sees them. One morning at breakfast, Baby Dog pointed across her highchair tray and said something that sounded like “why.” I thought maybe she was saying “boy,” in reference to my great-nephew (her elder by a year), who was seated across the table. Then I thought maybe she was referring to fruit on the table, saying “berry,” which sometimes comes out of her sounding something like “boy.” Then she said, “double-you,” and I finally understood she was reading my niece’s t-shirt, which said “TWEETY.” “Tee,” she added by way of further clarification.

A highlight of the trip was a gathering at my nephew’s new house, with his parents (my sister and brother-in-law) and siblings. The house had wall-to-wall carpet, not something I’m usually too keen on but an irresistible novelty for Baby Dog. She rolled around and slid on her back and cackled and gambolled. It’s the closest she came all trip to making snow angels. The best thing about this particular gathering was that there was a large enough enclosed safe space for Baby Dog to play in and enough responsible adults around watching her that Mama Dog and I were able to carry on a conversation with my nephew and his wife without constantly checking on what the child was doing. If you don’t have or haven’t had a small child, that may not sound like such a big deal, but trust me, it’s huge.

Baby Dog will little note nor long remember this particular trip, but I know her aunts and uncle and grandparents and cousins will, and it included many memories that her parents will treasure on her behalf. We received an embarrassment of Christmas gifts (particularly considering all we sent was one Harry and David package per household), but hands-down the best and most thoughtful gift came from niece C. She gave us a scrapbook for Baby Dog, with each page devoted to a different element of our baby’s family. There was a page with pictures of Mama Dog and me, one with pictures of my parents, one with pictures of sister L’s family, one with sister A’s, and so on. There was even a page devoted to Doggy Dog, with snaps taken during niece C’s and niece T’s visits down here. Towards the end there was a page headed “First Canadian Christmas,” with pictures of Baby Dog and the extended family taken that very morning. The other day I showed Baby Dog the album and tried to get her to repeat the names she’d learned during her stay; Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie L, Auntie A, etc. All my suggestions brought blank stares, perhaps because most of the pictures were a little old and perhaps didn’t gibe exactly with her memories of those people. When I showed her the “First Canadian Christmas” page, I said, “Look, there’s M with Baby Dog! And there’s A!” Her face lit up with recognition and she pointed a little finger at the background of the picture. “Pooh bear chair!” she exclaimed. I guess we all have to decide for ourselves which memories are the important ones.