Dog Days

First of all, allow me to warn you that this is not so much a blog post as a public service announcement.  What can I say?  I live to help others.

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I got a new puppy a couple of months back.  Living with The Grandparents as I did for almost ten years, it wasn’t really appropriate for me to get a larger dog and bring into their house.  I already had (and still have) a small, old dog.  So I didn’t want to push my luck.  Anyway, my point was, as soon as we moved into our own place, I got a puppy.  His name is Jack.

This post isn’t about him, though.  It’s about dogs in general.

I love dogs.  I am a dog person, for sure.  Always have been.  I’m not an overly demonstrative person, but I get very attached to my canine companions.  Also, I try to do what’s right for them.  I always try to make sure they have the proper activities and vet care and such.  Following this same train of thought (if you can) I take Jack for a walk every day around the neighborhood.  We do a couple of miles every day.

Allow me a brief digression.  We are Cesar Millan disciples around here.  We believe and practice his methods to the very best of our ability.  I walk Jack because he needs daily exercise to keep him calm and easy going.  He hasn’t chewed up the first thing in my house, he is housebroken, and although we are still working on properly greeting people at the door, he is overall fairly relaxed.  Hail Cesar!

Back to my original point (which I hadn’t made yet).  When I walk Jack, I carry a stick, pepper spray, and a pellet pistol.  Why?

Because of the dogs.

At The Grandmother’s house, there were almost never any loose dogs.  I think the main reason was that the main highway went right in front of the house, and that’s not the best environment for a wandering dog.

Here, though, is a one lane country road, and there are lots of dogs.  Loose dogs.

We can’t really walk in one direction of our loop road, because there’s about ten dogs running around up there.  The other direction of the loop goes just a few dozen yards then runs into the main highway, so forget that.  So, naturally, we walk out the one lane road that follows the creek up the hollow for a couple of miles.  It’s a lovely walk.

Except for the dogs.

It’s very frustrating.  None of my family will walk with me because of the loose dogs that stalk you as you walk.  My husband will, but he doesn’t get in until almost dark, and if you’ve read my posts in the past, you know I don’t do dark.  So anyway, I’m on my own.  My son will go sometimes, and he tries not to be nervous about it, but I know he is.  There is one dog in particular who is very aggressive, and my son and Jack sort of cower behind me while I stand her down.  Everyone tells me she is just a “teddy bear,” and I’ve seen her being friendly with her owners and with one of her neighbors, and I’ve even tried talking to her and getting her to calm down and come on over and have a sniff, but she’s not having it.  Some days she just stands on the porch and barks, but she has actually charged us across the road, and once I even had to poke her with my stick because she got too close.  I’m not afraid of dogs, but she is a very big dog, and I sure as hell don’t want to have to get into it with her.

Luckily, I’m a bigger bitch even than she. (I thought I’d say it before you did.)

There are other dogs on our walk, but mostly they just bark.  Barking doesn’t bother me.  I think most people out in the country have their dogs because they want to be alerted when things are amiss.  Fine.  But at some point, you have to take responsibility for your pet.  I know of local neighborhoods where people have actually been bitten, and kids had to stop riding their bikes on certain public roads because of loose dogs.

Then here’s when it gets ugly–something bad happens, and a dog turns up missing or gets shot.  I can’t stand that.  I’m not sure under what circumstances I could ever shoot a dog.  I love dogs, remember?  But then I start thinking.  My daughter has this really cool tricycle that she absolutely loves to ride, and I’ve been so excited for her to ride it this summer.  The walk out our creek here is reasonably flat, and she could go pretty well.

But what if my nemesis charges my little disabled daughter on her little bike as she rides by?  Evelyn is afraid of strange big dogs, and I don’t know how she would react if one came snarling and barking at her.  I don’t know how I would react.

I know how my husband says he’s going to react.

Then there’s trouble.  You put up with crap and put up with it, then when you finally do something, you’re the dirty dog (pun absolutely intended.)  As an example, The Grandparents have these neighbors who used to keep three Siberian Huskies in an eight by ten cage.  They never took them out, ever.  They dumped the food and water over the top of the cage.  The water bowl looked like a frog pond.  The mountain of dog shit was literally three feet high, and that is not an exaggeration.  The smell was horrific. On humid evenings, you couldn’t even tolerate sitting on the back porch at The Grandparent’s because of the stench.  So, finally, The Grandmother called the humane society, and they came and took the one remaining dog (the other two had died.)

Can you guess what happened?  The neighbors told everyone what awful people The Grandparents were, and how they had picked on them, blah blah blah.  The worst part was that everyone in the neighborhood had complained about it for years, but no one would dare do anything.  Then, to top it off, the owners just knocked down Mount Turdious, paid a fine, and then brought the dog right back and put him right back in there again!

The point of my story is that, no matter what, I’m going to end up as the bad guy here.  There is no happy ending.  Something bad will have to happen, then more bad things will happen.  Just a cycle of badness.  I want to be friends with all of my neighbors.  I don’t even care if their dog come around here.  A neighbor up on the hill has an extremely fat yellow lab that waddles around sometimes and says hello.  She’s a panting, whole-butt-wagging type of dog.  But I also had to chase away two black dogs the other day, because one of them charged at my dad while he was here visiting.  What do you do?  What’s the answer?

There is no answer.  Just the cycle of badness.

 

Social Isolation

A terrible thing is happening.

I’m falling out of love with Facebook.

I think this must be how a heroin addict feels.  You hate heroin, but you love it.  You never want to see it again, but you can’t live without it.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I couldn’t live without social media, or, more specifically, Facebook.  And yet, it holds me.

It holds me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media in general lately, and it’s really sort of a sad testament to our culture that our main form of communication occurs without ever having to actually see or talk to anyone.  Even family.  I’m just as guilty.  In all seriousness, probably 90% of my contact with friends and family that I stay in touch with is via social media.  So, here’s the question: is that a bad thing?

Maybe it is.

I wonder if we are becoming a people who has zero social interaction skills.  How ironic that Facebook (and Twitter, and whatever) is called “social” media.  Maybe it should be called anti-social media.  We can allegedly fulfill our familial and friendship obligations without ever leaving our reclining chairs (which is, incidentally, where I am sitting right now.)  We don’t ever have to send a thank you note, write a letter, or, God forbid, talk to someone.

What’s worse, when you actually do talk to someone, I think the lack of social interaction is showing.  No one looks anyone in the eye anymore.  Usually that’s because they are busy checking Facebook on their smart phones.  Texting also fits into this category–again, you don’t actually have to talk to anyone.  I guess if it wasn’t for politicians and Baptist ministers, talking would go out of fashion altogether.

Even though I just made a lot of compelling points about why social media is going to be the downfall of modern society (I didn’t really make any compelling points, but who cares), the real reason I am falling out of love with Facebook is because it is making me hate people again.

I hated people before, you know.  Long ago.  I was a bitter, hateful youth.  Then I sort of mellowed out.  Well, a little, anyway.  I can usually ignore people who really annoy me.  But with Facebook, I can’t ignore them.  It’s like I’m drawn to the annoying-ness, then I get some sort of pleasure complaining about it.  How sick is that?! No–how sad is that?

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So now I’m starting to hate people again, and I’m afraid I’m not alone.  So you see, this is yet another way our social media is isolating us from each other.  Not only is it making me indifferent, it’s making me want to actively hurt people in the face.

I mean, seriously.  Don’t you get that?  Don’t you read some of the statuses and just want to die? Or kill someone?  You know what I mean–the ones that go on about how wonderful their lives are.  “I woke up in my satin sheets this morning in my mansion and went for a walk around our private island, and some sand got in my nose, and when I sneezed, dimes flew out! How wonderful! Then the kids went and built houses for poor people and then we went and all bought complete new wardrobes for the week! We are so blessed!”

Yeah.

Or it’s the opposite–you know, the ones who are always on the verge of death.  But still, they are blessed.

And then there are the ones who feel compelled to share every single detail of their personal lives.  Take my word for this, folks–no one cares about the color of your BM.  Really. And some of the stuff you are sharing shouldn’t be shared.  In the old days, if you wanted to find out about people’s dirty laundry,  you had to rely on gossiping, or Jerry Springer.  Now, just turn on the computer.

I’m starting to think maybe I’m the problem.  Maybe someone with my personality defects shouldn’t be exposed to others.  Maybe it’s better if I just sit in the house and avoid social interaction of any kind.

Except Facebook, of course.

I can’t give that up.


 

Little Things

I listen to talk radio occasionally, and recently I heard a neat little segment.  The name of the bit was called “Random Thankfulness,” and people called in and told about the little things in their lives that they were thankful for.

Now, we hear lots and lots about thankfulness, especially around this time of year.  We are all thankful for our families and our friends and our homes and all of the things we are blessed to have.

But what about the little things?

These are the things that might sound a little odd in an expression of thankfulness, but are important just the same.  So, in the spirit of the holidays, I thought I would provide you with a few of my favorites.

  • Waterproof mattress pads.  Oh yes.  Anyone who ever raised a child should be thankful for these.
  • My dishwasher: I’ve never had one before, and I am already deeply attached to it.  Deeply.
  • Visine Allergy eye drops.  My life would be hell without these.  Hell.
  • Swiffers.  This particular product just generally makes me happy.  They actually do what they claim to do.
  • My Kindle. This revolutionized my reading life.  Really.  I know some people who say they prefer to hold a book in their hand, but frankly, I think these people are full of crap.  I can carry my whole library with me.  I love it.
  • Rocking chairs.  When I sit down, I want to be sitting in a rocking chair.  I love to rock.  I rocked my babies, before and after they were born.  I rock when I read.  I rock when I watch TV.  You get it.  I like to rock.
  • A new mattress.  This is one thing we splurged on when we moved, and it is awesome.
  • Bird feeders.  I love watching the birds on the feeders outside my kitchen window.  Their little lives are so fascinating.
  • The sound of a little creek in our yard.  Just that little trickling sound makes my day every morning when I take the dogs out.
  • Which leads me to…..my dogs.  You always feel funny about saying you are thankful for your dogs, but I am!  I love those guys.  They love me unconditionally, trust me completely, and they are always happy to see me, even if I only left to go to the bathroom.

It’s a silly list, I know, but fun, and in all seriousness, these things make my life a little better and a little brighter.

So, fill in the comments–what little things are you thankful for?

 

****To my readers:  I am thankful for all of you, too!  Thanks for reading and sharing.  I hope you can find tons of things in your life to be thankful for.  Merry Christmas, happy Holidays, and happy New Year to you all!

 

 

 

The Blame Game

You may or may not have noticed, but I tend to wait a little while before talking about things that happen in our society.  This isn’t because I’m a procrastinator (I am) or because I don’t like writing about things like this (I don’t), but just because I like to wait awhile.  It gives me time to try to think objectively about things, and digest the stories and reports that spawn out of tragedies. Mostly, it lets me write a little more calmly.

The shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut happened a little less than a week ago.  I won’t rehash the whole thing.  You know all about it.

The blame started almost immediately, and it’s still going strong.

Some of the blame is obvious.  The guy who went in there and shot all those babies is to blame.  That’s an easy one.

But it isn’t all so easy.

Almost as soon as the story broke, the gun debate started.  My first reaction to the gun debate was disgust.  If you want to know part of what’s wrong with our society, consider the fact that when a news story broke that twenty babies were laying dead in their elementary school from multiple gunshot wounds, the first response of many was to promote their political cause.  It wasn’t just the gun nuts or the gun haters–it was both.  It was the Christians and the non-Christians. They all sat back and looked down their noses and wagged their heads just like the guys walking past Jesus on the Cross.  They gave their respective reasons as to why this happened and how if their respective ideas had been followed all along, this wouldn’t have happened.

They make it sound so easy.

Here’s the thing–it isn’t easy.  How I wish that there was some sort of concrete answer as to why this happened, how it could have been prevented, and how it could be prevented from ever happening again.  But the answer isn’t in black and white.  Here are a few of the things I’ve heard from many sources, and my problems with them.

  • Ban assault weapons: Well, okay.  In all honesty, I’ve never really understood why anyone needs a semi-automatic rifle.  Also, I totally see the point about how quickly they can fire and how difficult and dangerous this makes the situation for law enforcement to fight back.  But at the same time, if you look at it statistically, how many people own these weapons, and how many are used in mass murders?  It’s a microscopic percentage.  Is that really the problem?
  • Ban all guns: This one makes me kind of sad.  People like to talk about the second amendment, which gives us the right to bear arms and form a militia to protect ourselves from an oppressive government.  Like most good ideas in this culture, we take it, rape it, beat it till it’s bloody, then hang it in the town square for all to see. We stretch the boundaries until the original spirit of the idea is long gone.  I feel this way about our right to bear arms.  We are never satisfied.  Having said that, I am also a gun owner.  I have a hidden handgun, and quite frankly, I am not comfortable giving it up.  I’m not sure how that fits in to everything I just said, but it’s just the truth.
  • Give the teachers a gun: This one bugs me.  I really can’t look at this one objectively, because I think it’s ridiculous.  I know a lot of teachers, and not one of them would be willing to carry a gun in their school.  If nothing else, think of the liability!  They aren’t cops.  Someone mentioned the principal having a gun.  Well, fine.  But here’s a little dose of reality for you.  Real life is not like in the movies, when the citizen shoots the bad guy right between the eyes on the first shot and saves the day.  Can you imagine, as an ordinary, non-gun-toting citizen, being in an OK Corral style shootout in a school building?!  As a parent, I just don’t know about this.  It’s not that I think the teacher would do something bad, but the fact is they are teachers, not cops.
  • Have a cop or security person at each school: Lots of places do this already.  While I think it doesn’t hurt, when a person comes to do the kind of damage this guy in Connecticut did, I’m not sure what would happen.  I like to think it would have made a difference, but I don’t know.
  • Bullet-proof glass:  I don’t mind this one so much.  He shot his way in because they wouldn’t buzz him in.  Bullet-proof glass would have prevented that.  But I don’t know much about bullet-proof glass–can it be compromised?  Could he have, say, driven his car through the wall to get through?  I just don’t know.
  • Bring back the death penalty/hanging/torture/an eye for an eye, etc.:  This one is especially sad.  A man goes into a situation with the full intent of ending his rampage by blowing his own brains out–do you really think the death penalty scares him?

I guess my point is just that I don’t know what you can do if someone is determined enough to do something terrible like this.  I don’t know how it can be prevented.  Even with mental health care revisions, it isn’t fool-proof.

You can argue about God, and how we’ve turned out backs on him, and this is what happens.  You can say evil is loose in the world.  But here’s a news flash for you–evil has always been loose in the world.  As humans, we are set apart from all other living things on Earth by our intellect, and our free will.  This gives us the capacity for great goodness.

It also gives us the capacity for great evil.

So, whose fault is it?  I would say it’s mine.  And yours.  And our parents.  And our grandparents……..back and back and back forever.  So how do we fix it?  I don’t know.

I don’t know.

 

Mainstream Consequences

Have a look at this recent story on Nightline.  Even if you’ve already seen it, watch it again.  Please.

Since you hopefully just watched that, I won’t waste our time by going over all of it.  But I will recap.  Concerns are arising over some of the disciplinary measures being taken in public schools when dealing with kids who have various behavioral problems, usually kids on the Autism Spectrum.  The word “barbaric” gets used a few times, as you might have noticed.

As I was watching this, I was shocked.  And since I try to always be as honest with you as possible, I’ll tell you something else: nothing good could come from a teacher, or anyone else, using those methods on my daughter.  If someone shocked her as a punishment, I would have no choice but to do the whole Terminator thing and drive my f****** van right through the front of the school.  That’s all. Ditto on tying her to a table.

I try very, very hard to be an open minded person.  I know how difficult it can be to deal with behavior problems.  I know how impossible it can be to control these kids.  Some of them are big kids.  They try to hurt others, and they try to hurt themselves.  Even Evelyn, limited though she is, can really kick up hell when she wants to.  I know sometimes the only way to deal with her is just to not deal with her, if you follow.  She has to just sort of let it out, and I know the more I try to intervene, the worse it makes her.  You know how, when you are trying not to cry, and someone pats you or talks to you in a soothing voice, it makes you cry even more?  Same thing.

Anyway, as I said, I am trying to understand the thinking behind these extreme measures, and I always treat everything reported by the media with great suspicion.  I know a story can be twisted in many ways, and I know that we don’t know the back stories to these situations.

But they shocked that kid.  They shocked him.

I’ll tell you another one that got me: when the man was holding the little boy, and the boy’s mother was trying to get the man to let the boy go.  Ha, ha.  The man would have let my child go.  Oh yes.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not one of those people who think I can whip everyone’s ass.  Far from it.  I’m getting older and squishy and I’m getting arthritis in my fingers.  If I punched someone it would probably hurt me more than them.  But make no mistake–I’m not pushover, either.  I would get my child out of the arms of anyone restraining her against our will, or die in the attempt.

So, what is my point?  Good question.  After my initial emotional response passes, I don’t think those people using those methods are intending to be barbarians.  It seems to me like they are uneducated and inexperienced. They lack the knowledge, patience, and understanding required to deal with these kids.  Did you see the other school?  The Centennial School?  The one with all the kids with behavior problems?  Did you see how good the teachers were at dealing with the kids, and how caring and informed the administrator was?  If you missed it, watch the video again.  Pay attention.

Has anyone caught up with me yet?

Want to know how we go to this situation?  Want to know how things got this far out of control?

Mainstreaming.

They even mentioned it in the video, though they never addressed it directly.  But it’s there.  I’ve talked about this before, but I think it bears repeating.  Let me make it as clear as I can: this is the kind of shit that happens when you put special needs kids in a “regular” education environment! Regular ed teachers cannot provide the attention needed for a special ed kid and the other fifty kids they have to teach to take tests.  It’s not possible, and I don’t care how fabulous the teacher is.

You know what it is?  It’s babysitting.  That’s all it is.  Glorified, really expensive baby sitting.  A bunch of politically correct bullshit that makes everyone feel “good” that these kids aren’t being segregated or made to feel different.

Here’s a frickin’ news flash, which I have flashed previously: they ARE different! All of the wishing in the world won’t change it.  I can put Evelyn in the regular ed classroom until the end of time, and she still won’t be a regular ed student.  What could she possibly get out of a regular ed classroom?

From what I can tell, about 60 volts.  Or maybe tied to a table.

I find it amazing that my own state of West Virginia is among the seventeen that have laws in place to protect children from this type of extreme discipline.  Maybe there is hope for us after all.  Otherwise, there are no federal guidelines.  I guess it’s a sort of “anything goes” type situation.

But the bottom line is this:  it will only get worse.  The increase in behavioral disorders is astronomical.  Where do we go?  What do we do?  I don’t know the answers to those questions, and I don’t pretend to, but I do know one thing.  The answers will not be found inside a mainstream classroom.

And remember, if you hear a news story about some parent parking her van in the principle’s office, send me a prayer.


 

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