Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quiet Eating

Another of Father’s traits from the wild appeared whenever he ate and in particular when he was hand fed by someone. When Father was hand-fed, he quietly took the food from my hand and silently ate his food and patiently waited for his next serving. Compare this to how Andy and Abby ate when hand-fed and it’s a stark contrast. Abby and Andy, when fed by hand, would move side to side and with the clicking of their nails on the hardwood floor, it sounded like they were doing a tap dance. Then when they finally got their food, they snapped their jaws shut and smacked their lips with each and every bite.

Did they put on a show, too! I didn’t think much about their eating behaviors until a few times after I had hand feed Father alone in the kitchen. Father was so discrete during these times that it took me a while to catch on to what was “not” happening. If I wanted to give Father the rest of a sandwich, I did so without and audience from the babies. However, if I hand fed Abby or Andy, they might get a bite in before the others would hear the commotion in the kitchen and tippy tip on in to see what was happening. They knew what was happening. They knew a dog was getting a tooty and they wanted to get in on the action. When the other dogs joined the feeding, this meant I had to divide the food among 3 dogs. The first one in the kitchen now had to share with the others

But not with Father. If Father were alone in the kitchen, his quiet eating never drew the attention of his fellow canines so he was able to eat a bigger portion of food. On the surface, it seems like a strange paradox that a dog living in the wild ate with more refinement than the house dogs who ate like they were raised in a barn. I suppose Father’s eating habits were a survival mechanism developed when he lived in his ‘semi-feral’ state. He had to lay low especially when he ate or else he risked drawing unwanted attention.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Standing Before the Man

I can’t believe it. On the second day of covering cases in CivPro, I hear the following: Mr. Jogger, (and yes, CivPro Prof does address us as Mr/Ms.) the International Shoe Company case was a landmark case and one of the big cases covered in almost all civil procedure cases. What can you tell me about it?

“Shit,” I thought, “I can’t believe my name was called, especially for a case this big.”

And we were off and running.

I was the one who had to carry the ball for that hour-long-plus class. I almost locked up at first, but it was like jumping in a cold pool early in the outdoor season, it stung a little at first but I got used to it after that and it wasn’t so bad.

Later, a fellow student said I didn’t look nervous. Believe me, I was. This is not to say that this is easy. It’s not. I’m older than most students and have had some experiences that have served me well when it comes to public speaking. I’m no JFK or Winston Churchill, but I can hold my own and make my case when the time arises. In grad school, I had to teach labs, give updates to my research group where the professor sometimes yelled, and gave seminars.

If I took myself back 20 years when I was in my early 20’s, I would have been paralyzed with fear. Now, things aren’t so bad, but I imagine for many of these students, the thought of being called on is a traumatic one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Public v. Private: A Quick Comparison

After two days of classes, here are a few quick comments on some differences between a private school and a public one. First, there is the matter of alcohol. At this private school, not only is alcohol served on campus, but it is sold on campus. I’m not even sure if serving alcohol is allowed on any of the UNC System schools. I could imagine the hissy fit a legislature would have from some Podunk district in eastern NC. I’m sure the Raleigh News & Observer would have a week long expository about the sinful alcohol sold at the ‘pure’ UNC and the damaging effect it’s having on ‘the children.’
Then there is the matter of food. I don’t know if this is solely a function of it being a private school or a private law school, but there is free food all the time. If properly planned, a student could go for weeks at a time without having to buy his/her own lunch because of all the freebies on campus.

Lastly there is the matter of the gym. My god that thing is nice as hell. I paid over $60/mo for my gym membership in NJ and it didn’t come close to the hours and quality this school’s gym provides. This gym is really nice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Andy's OCD

Andy has done many things that made me think “This dog is crazy as hell.” One of them was his compulsion to sniff at objects at his eye-level. It just so happened that my mom was going through her great spending spree around the time Andy was a puppy and into his early adulthood. Labs are curious by nature; they will notice and smell any new object in their home, or they will smell objects moved to another place in the room, even if only by a few feet. Labs will notice it and take a closer look. So, while my mom was in her Great Spending Spree, Andy had ample opportunity for his sniffing compulsion to display itself.

It also happened that my mom liked to buy top-heavy objects for decorations and place them all around the den and living room. Because of these objects’ high center of gravity, these objects moved easily when touched and would even rock back and forth when nudged by just a little. When the objects would move after Andy sniffed at them, Andy would either become startled at the objects unexplained movement, or Andy would become scared and jump back. The vacuum cleaner has always been a source of frustration and wonder for Andy. He has always been scared of it, but he can’t help but to sniff at the wand on my mom’s canister style vacuum. Sometimes the handle would lie precariously on top of the vacuum so it didn’t take much for the wand to fall to the ground sending Andy into a tizzy. He knows what a vacuum cleaner is but yet he can’t help to sniff at it.

If all Andy did was to sniff the objects and walk away, I wouldn’t have noticed this behavior. However, Andy was intrigued by the objects that moved when he smelled them leading him to keep nudging the object at least 3 or 4 times in a matter of a couple of minutes. He would sniff it again and again and again. It was an odd combination of fear and fascination that drove this compulsion of his. Of course with me being the person I am, I would often move objects around by just a little so I could watch Andy go through his routine. It kept him busy and brought me entertainment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Day of Class

I’ve attended all of the first classes in all of my courses by now. I was surprised by how much outside knowledge of law the professors expected us to have known on the first day. What really surprised me was that many of the students knew what they did. It took me over 40 years to acquire all of the info, and those little rascals did it in just over 20.

I was also surprised that one professor gave advice on what hornbooks we should consider buying. Some law professors (I’ve heard) consider it a great insult for a student to supplement his/her course with a hornbook. I guess such professors consider it an affront to their teaching prowess and believe that everything a student needs to know can be gleaned from the lectures and casebook. It’s sort of like when guy gets upset when his significant other wants to use a ‘device’ in bed because this would be an insult to the guy’s ‘manliness’ (“I got all you need right here baby.”)
The property professor was quite chatty and likes to cold call on students as well as relies on volunteers. The other professors simply rely on volunteers as far as class participation goes. One thing they all had in common was how much they could talk, and talk they did. There were no overheads, Power Point slides or chalk-talks. Everything was vocalized; it was all words and no visual aids.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Finally Read a David Sedaris Book

While I was moving out recently, I came across a book my brother gave to my mom a few years ago, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I never knew much about the guy and would not have recognized his name had it not been for Amy Sedaris. I used to watch Strangers With Candy all the time and was saddened when Comedy Central prematurely cancelled the show. The show was so funny and they got away with a lot of politically incorrect stuff on those episodes. I can’t believe how many “B List” stars Raleigh has generated: Amy Sedaris (I know she’s from upstate NY but she grew up in NC), Michael Hall, Emily Procter, Clay Aiken and Evan Rachel Wood, to name a few.

I also saw that David Sedaris made it on the list at the website Stuff White People Like. Out of curiosity, I had to see what the big deal was about. The book was an easy read, and the fact that several of the anecdotes are set in Raleigh, a town I lived in for 14 years, drew my attention to the stories. For example, I’ve seen Silly P’s Vans going around town while I lived in Raleigh. Anyone w/ a pulse has heard of North Hills mall which has subsequently been torn down and rebuilt into a fancy shopping center. I’ve also heard of Sanderson High. We used to compete against them in swim meets when I was young and a swimmer.
One thing I thought was funny is how Knightdale gets no respect from David or me. In this blog, I’ve made a few wisecracks at Knightdale, and in Me Talk… David took a shot at Knightdale was well. I must say that if David really wanted to add to the comical effect when he was describing how his moving to a remote French village would be like a French person moving to Knightdale, he could have done better by referring to Lizard Lick instead. If you want to attention and a smile to an outsider from the NC area, talking about Lizard Lick will guarantee success for that effort.

One other thing to note is that both Dave’s mom and mine use the word ‘goddamnit’ a lot. When I tell someone a story about my mom and repeat it when she said the ‘g-d’ word, people will say “Your mom didn’t say that.” For my mom, the g-d word is like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence meant to emphasize whatever point she was trying to make. Who knows, maybe there is something about the Raleigh environment compelling mothers to say the g-d word as freely as the yellow-green pine pollen in the heart of spring around there.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Observation

The price of my books cost about the same as my undergrad tuition did when I went to a state school in the mid to late 80's.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Orientation is Over.

Days 2 and 3 of orientation are over. We set up our computers so they could access the school’s wireless network. The configurations went surprisingly well. I thought for sure I would have to need the help of Nick Burns the Computer Guy and undergo a gauntlet of insults, but that didn’t happen since the instructions in the handouts were understandable, well written and effective. I was a little off guard because we actually had our first class (legal research/writing) during orientation. I thought it was going to be a ‘meet-n-greet’, but it was a full fledged class that took the whole time allotted for that slot.

There were speeches by people in various departments. We also listened to a description of our class profile. I’m not the oldest guy in our class!!!! HOTDAMN!!! There were free continental breakfasts on all three days which made me happy even though I wasn’t that hungry; the thought matters. We also had a free lunch at our school’s dining hall on Friday.

Lastly, I have access to Lexis Nexis and Westlaw, two of the largest electronic commercial databases out there. I have no idea which one I’ll like better. It sort of reminds me of the larger chemistry electronic databases out there: Scifinder and Beilstein. People often pick a side and swear allegiance to one or the other but not both. I wonder if that is how it will be with Lexis and Westlaw.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"What Makes You Think You Can Be a Black Hero?"

Those who like the movie I’m Gonna Get You Sucka may have recognized the quote above. It’s a great satire filled with many memorable quotes. The quote above came to mind when I was thinking about the following story about Father.
One summer afternoon on a visit back to NC in 1999, I was in the back by myself playing in the pool. My mom, Abby and Andy had all went to her bedroom to take a mid-afternoon nap which had become a ritual for my mom and the babies. Andy absolutely loved taking a nap and had come to expect it. If my mom was a little late in initiating the naptime routine, Andy would go into the hallway leading to the bedrooms and stare at my mom in a perplexed manner wondering why she hadn’t went to bed yet.

Father wasn’t an avid napper. Some days he would go but on others he wouldn’t. On this afternoon, he decided to stay outside and hang around with me. Father loved to play by the pool but not in the pool. He couldn’t swim worth a dam. The only times he did go in was when he was pushed into the water accidentally by the babies when they brushed past him on the pool ledge. Father swam with all of the grace and elegance that Frankenstein would have if he ever took a dip. It wasn’t a pretty site, but Father could make it to the steps or ladder, and I guess that is all that mattered.

Father loved to be splashed or squirted with water, and he also loved chasing toys around in the pool. On this day, I decided to tease Father, so I sunk to the bottom of the pool and laid there for a half a minute to a minute. For some reason, this drove Father nuts. He would start barking loudly in that high-pitched voice of his, and I could hear him when I was seven feet below the pool’s surface. When I resurfaced, Father was happy and let me pet and love him. On one dive, I stayed down as long as I could, possibly a minute and a half. Father barked the whole time on this dive. It was so loud and shrill that it woke my mom up, and she went into the backyard to see what all the commotion was. “What the hell is going on our here, goddamnit?” she asked. I told her that I was teasing Father and that we were playing a game.

She laughed and said that maybe Father was trying to save my life. This led me to think “Did Father try to save me?” Father was scared of going in the water and probably had an instinctual grasp that water could be hazardous, especially going underwater. Was Father barking to get someone’s attention so that they could help me in what Father perceived to be a dangerous situation?

Then I thought that Father was simply scared. He may have thought I was in trouble and was panicking since he was worried about my safety.

I can’t pinpoint what Father was barking at me for. Other than when Father first came to our house at a time he feared and hated me, Father never barked at me. I’d like to believe that Father was trying to save me by calling for help. I realize this is an anthropomorphic and sentimental viewpoint, but it’s a nice thought to have if it was really true. Even if he was panicking and scared, it is sweet to think that Father cared about me enough to be worried about my safety.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Orientation: Day 1

The first day of orientation is over. Although the temperature wasn’t that high, the weather was sweltering outside because of the dreadful humidity. By the time I walked from the visitor’s parking lot to the law building, I was sweating like a whore in church. It was awful and embarrassing. The first day wasn’t simply a meet-n-greet. We received our student ID’s, carrel assignment and key, and we set up our laptops so we could access the law school’s wireless internet system. The instructions for setting up the software went surprisingly smoothly. A group of 3 or 4 1L’s had lunch with a 2L or 3L somewhere off campus. We had Mexican which I enjoyed. It’s hard to go wrong with that choice unless there is a royal pain in the ass vegan type in the group, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. All of us in our lunch group went to UNC undergrad. Coincidence? I think not!

After the end of the day 1 orientation, I went to my carrel not to study but to surf the net. I still don’t have an internet connection at home and am not sure if I will get at my apartment. After checking my emails, chatting on a forum and catching up on my favorite blogs, I packed my belongings and went to the book store to buy my case books. As I was searching for my text books, an older man searching the law texts greeted me and picked out a book from what looked like a class for a 2L or 3L. Surely this guy isn’t a student? Then again, I’ve heard of people well into their 60s enter law school.

I couldn’t find the last book I needed, The Blue Book. I asked the guy if he knew where they were. He said sure and further added that if I had time to go back to his office, he would give me a Blue Book for free. I said “For a free book, I’ll make the time!” It turns out the guy was a law professor, and he receives freebies from publishers such as The Blue Book. I went to his office and picked up the book. That’s a $50 savings, people!

He then gave me some studying advice in preparation for a law school exam. The advice was in accordance with similar advice I’ve heard from other professors, lawyers and law students. I thanked the professor for the gift and went on my way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On the Eve of My Departure to Law School

Here I am about to embark on my trip to the city where I’ll be going to law school. Two years ago seems like such a long time ago with so much uncertainty. I hadn’t even started studying for the LSAT yet, and when I did, wow did I receive a huge slap in the face from reality. I thought I would be able to study a few weeks for it like I did the GRE and achieve about the same success with the LSAT as I had with the GRE. No. No. No. I told no one but a coworker and my mom that I was scheduled to take the LSAT, and under strict orders were they to tell anyone. Period.
Had I bombed on my LSAT, which my first few practice tests indicated I would do, I would have quietly worked on my resume, a seminar and applied for jobs in the northeast or out west. In my line of work, the most pharmaceutical R&D positions are in the places just mentioned. Also in my line of work, the interviews typically last from 8am until 4pm, and the candidate is required to present a 30-45 min seminar of the candidate’s scientific research. It’s a formidable task not to be taken lightly. Often, the success of a candidate’s job search hinges on how well the seminar is. As a matter of fact, after the 3rd bombed out practice test, I did indeed prepare a seminar for my job search. I also postponed taking the LSAT from December to the following February. I was even thinking about not taking the test. However, I put so much work in the test that I would go ahead and take it, after all the test was paid for.

It took a few weeks to go over 6 years of research and then compose a 40 slide seminar in Power Point. Soon after, Christmas rolled around, and after New Years, I studied an additional 3 weeks for the LSAT which made the difference. Something ‘clicked’ (or at least for the logical reasoning part), and I didn’t do nearly as bad as in my practice tests. The logic games kicked my ass which frustrated me to no end! For someone with a science background, that should have been my strongest segment, but it wasn’t. I received my LSAT score a few days after Abby died. What a bitter sweet moment that was. I just lost my baby girl, but on the other hand, I had the realization that I was going to law school—somewhere! I didn’t hit a grand slam, but I guess I got on second base after hitting a single and advancing a base after an infield error.

The receiving of the LSAT score stopped my job search quest, but I still had a decision to make. Should I go to law school in the 2009-10 or wait a year? I chose to wait a year so I could stay in Raleigh and help my mom take care of my sick dad. August 2010 seemed like an eternity, but here it is!

I’m nervous about this for several reasons. First, I’m taking a huge step out of my academic comfort zone. Sure, the law school exam format is going to be different for all of us, but for a science major, this difference will be even starker. Then there is the matter of age. I haven’t taken a class for a grade since 1995. I’m going to be rusty to say the least. Also, PLEASE don’t let me be the oldest in my class. It really shouldn’t matter to me but it does.

People often ask me if I’m excited. I’m not the ebullient type and am not a giddy teenager starting school for the first time. I’m nervous and scared. Am I doing the right thing? Can I do this? Will I get a decent job? I’ve been thinking about going to law school for ten years, but it took my being laid off to really force the issue of whether I wanted to go to law school or not. I have to admit, my R&D position wasn’t the most sexy and thrilling job in the world, but it was a safe and comfortable one. Now I’m about to go into a realm of great uncertainty. The next time I post about my law school experience, I will no longer be a 0L but will be a 1L!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Yellow Submarine

When I would visit home, usually I’d be home for just a weekend or possibly a long holiday weekend. Since my time home was brief, I wanted my stay to be as eventful and fun-filled as possible which meant I would buy many toys to satisfy the babies and would subsequently give us something to do. However, there were times when I was a little excessive in my toy selection and expenditures. Sometimes I would buy toys that were not in any way meant to be a dog toy but nevertheless were used for playing with dogs anyway.

A remote controlled toy submarine was an example of such overindulgence. Spurring the idea was how much fun the babies had with the remote controlled toy car from a year or two ago. If they liked a land toy of that nature, maybe an aquatic one would be just as fun and would give us some amusement while we were outside and playing in or by the pool. I can’t say for sure where we bought the toy, or even who bought the toy, my mom or me. I was worried for a couple of reasons when first getting that toy. First there was the chance it wouldn’t work that well and wouldn’t live up to the claims the advertisers made such as the toy’s diving ability. Second, I worried that the dogs would either be scared of the toy or simply be uninterested in it and therefore they wouldn’t play with it.

All of my worries were for naught. Andy was a little nervous of the toy, but Abby and Father absolutely loved it. Once Andy saw that Abby didn’t fear the toy and had so much fun playing with it, Andy, too came around and played with it as well. I was shocked that Father took an interest in the submarine.

On the “Alpha Run”, I set the toy in the pool and let it float there in place for a couple of minutes, long enough for the babies to trot to the pool’s edge and take a good look at it. Abby and Father were the first to check out this new object. Abby’s ears drooped and her brow was furrowed. Father was simply perplexed. Once they were comfortable with the object, I propelled it forward. It didn’t do fast, but it did go at a good clip. Abby’s deep booming voice went ‘woof, woof’ and Father’s high-pitched voice too sounded off. Father leaned over and grabbed at it. I had to make a quick turn to steer away from the pool’s edge or else Father would have snagged that thing. Abby also made a grab at it, but unlike Father, Abby wasn’t going to limit her attempts at getting that toy by staying on the pool ledge. Abby hustled to the concrete steps, slipped into the water and gave chase to the submarine. As noted earlier, this thing wasn’t terribly fast so Abby was able to catch up with the toy. When she did make contact with it, she bumped in to it and then tried to pick it up with her mouth.

I circled the toy around her a few times making her cry a little and frustrated. Once she was able to figure out the toy’s limits in mobility, that is when I submerged the toy. That thing could go at least 5 or 6 feet deep. I was impressed. Abby was nonplussed to say the least. Her face was worried, and she kept circling over the toy. She knew it was underneath her but she couldn’t get at it. Finally, I would surface the toy so that it would bump in to her from underneath hitting her belly. Now Abby was a little scared and started to whine. Eventually Abby got used to the toy’s submerging, surfacing and bumping in to her. It added to the fun. She would have a worried look on her face whenever that toy bumped into her belly from underneath.

Father would be watching the whole time and going haywire. I would allow the boat to get too close to the edge once in a while, and when I did this, Father would grab the sheath holding the toy’s antenna and pick up the toy and sling it around. I guess Father thought this was a little animal and wanted to kill the little rascal. I would have to shout at Father, take the toy from him and place the toy safely away from Father’s reach. The fun would continue. These games would go on for hours and hours on a weekend.

This toy was even more fun than I imagined and performed better than I had hoped. The only drawback was that the toy need over a half a dozen batteries for the submarine itself and the controller need 4-6 batteries. On top of that, the toy sucked power like a vortex so the unit needed to be recharged a couple of times on a weekend.

I loved the toy. The babies loved the toy. It was money well spent.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Moral Support at the Vet

I was recently reading another blogger’s post about his dogs which brought back memories of when I would take the babies to the veterinarian. Abby and Andy had their yearly exams at different times of the year. For a couple of reasons, I would take both dogs to the vet even if only one of them had an appointment. While I was in NJ, my mom would schedule Abby’s visits for when I would be down in NC visiting the family. Abby could be quite a handful at the vet making it hard for my mom to handle her especially when Abby was young. For example, at one vet visit when Abby was about a year old but no more than that, my mom and Abby were sitting in the waiting room for an appointment. My mom put the handle of the leash under a leg of the chair during the wait. My mom knew Abby could be forceful and headstrong so she hoped that anchoring the leash to the chair would keep Abby under control—not quite. Something drew Abby’s attention at another part of the waiting room; Baby Girl, wanting to take a closer look, slowly plowed her way across the floor dragging my 5ft tall mom across the floor with her. Abby would never pull that stunt with me because she knew she would get a spank.

Another reason I brought both dogs to the vet was so that I wanted to spend as much time around the babies as I could. Back in the mid to late 90s before the US-64 Bypass was opened, the round trip to our vet in Knightdale along with the waiting for the vet and the exam itself was almost an hour and a half, sometimes longer. On my trips to Raleigh, I wanted to be around them as much as possible so any chance I could be around them I would take. Lastly, if I took one dog somewhere and left the other behind, the one left behind would be sad and jealous. As I’ve mentioned before, I never, ever, ever mentioned to the babies that they were going to the vet. All they knew is that they were going ‘bye bye’.

Well, the first time I brought a dog to the vet when the other didn’t have an appointment, the vet was perplexed. She may have thought there was an error by the front desk and that possibly the second dog needed to be examined too. The vet asked me “Why is the other dog here? She doesn’t have an appointment, does she?” I replied “No she doesn’t. She’s only here for moral support.” The vet laughed and continued with the exam. By this time, the vets knew I was a little kooky when it came to how I treated my babies.

As Abby grew older and her mobility was severely limited by her arthritis, we didn’t take her to the vet unless she herself had an appointment. Getting her in the car was tough. Often times I had to lift her into the seat and then when she would get out, I would cradle her in my arms and place her on the ground. It was very laborious and painful for her to walk longer distances so we kept to a minimum such longer excursions. However, even when I would only take Andy to the vet, it was cute the way Abby responded to Andy after he returned. Although Abby was sad and felt left out when she wasn’t taken for a trip bye-bye, she seemed relieved afterwards when Andy returned. She would closely smell him in a slow, deliberate and curious manner. Abby knew where he had been, and she was probably glad that she stayed away from that place. Abby had several surgeries in her life and associated the vet clinic as a house of pain.

The Call of the Wild

During the Memorial Day Weekend in 1999 in my first summer while I was living in NJ, I was down in Raleigh visiting my family. Late one night, I was awoken to one of the most shrill, high-pitched, loudest howls I had ever heard. Normally I sleep deeply but on this night I was jolted out of my sleep and sat straight up in bed in sheer fright from what I heard. The howl was coming from my mom’s room. I’m usually bleary eyed and foggy minded when waking up, but this howling by Andy absolutely scared the hell out of me. There were many things crossing my mind when I first heard this, all of them bad. First, I thought Andy may have been hurt. Maybe he fell down and broke his leg somehow resulting in his being in excruciating and agonizing pain. Thinking one step ahead, I then thought a trip to the after-hours vet was in order for the night. Of course I also wondered if he was going to live at all by how blood curdling that howl was.
Second, I thought he was hurt but possibly by foul play. Could someone be in the house and have hurt my baby boy? Then I was worried about my mom as well. By this time, I was at DEFCON2. I was alert, ready and if necessary, would confront anyone who posed a threat to me, my family or the house. For those who didn’t see War Games, DEFCON is Defense Readiness Condition. DEFCON5 is peace while DEFCON1 would be full fledged war, WWIII.

All these thoughts and scenarios rushed in my head in merely seconds. I hopped out of bed, ran down the hall, flung my mom’s door open and turned on the lights. Lying peacefully in bed were my mom and Andy until I burst into the room. Andy popped his head up and started barking ferociously at me. My mom too lifted her head, and she too didn’t take too kindly to my entry. She scowled at me and yelled ‘what the hell are you doing, god damnit?’ Both of them slept through the whole ordeal! After I explained to her about Andy’s howling, my mom relaxed a little and started laughing. She had heard Andy do that so often that she doesn’t even notice it when he does it anymore.

Andy, too, had slept through the whole thing. This behavior was the equivalent ‘sleep talking’ for a canine. I would eventually catch Andy in the act a few times. He will usually twitch and his legs will be going through the motions of running while his mouth is howling at full pitch. All the while, his eyes are pinched shut and he is never aware of his ‘sleep howling’. It was a primordial howl and was as if he reverted back to a primitive state of his ancestors—wolves. As Andy grew older, the frequency of his night howls grew less and less. Also, when Andy moved to my condo a few years later, he never howled in his sleep while at my condo. Eventually, I would become used to Andy’s odd night time behavior, but on that night, my introduction to Andy talking in his sleep, I was scared shitless.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Empty Room

(For the sake of the story, imagine Father not being in the bed and that the bed is made up.)

One sad story my mom told me about Abby happened in the first 6 months or so after I moved out. After I moved, my mom would keep the door to my old room shut. She may have done this to save energy, or she could have done it to help keep the room clean by keeping the stray dust filtering in to a minimum. My mom didn’t shut the door tightly so with Abby’s battering ram for a head, my baby girl was able to burst through the door. Abby did this a few times in the first year I was gone. I think she did it soon after I left after a visit to Raleigh. My mom caught her in the act one time and watched her walk around the room. This was Abby’s old room after all. Abby walked around the bed, sniffed around and after a couple of minutes, left the room and returned to the den and joined the rest of the family.

I’ve always wondered what went through her mind. Obviously she missed me, but was going in that room a sentimental journey for her so she could reminisce about someone not in her life? Did she think for a fleeting moment that I may have possibly been in that room and took an outside shot that she would see me? It broke my heart that my baby girl missed me so much, but when she got used to the fact that I would come home every month, she settled in to a new routine and seemed to snap out of her funk.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Andy's First Snow

When I was a kid, there was an ad campaign for mental health awareness. One commercial stated “You wouldn’t laugh at cancer or a stroke, would you? Then why would you laugh at mental illness?” The commercial went on to describe the devastating effects mental illness has in society. The point was well made, but regardless, there are some things people and dogs do that are not ‘all there’ that makes me want to laugh. I know this is puerile, insensitive and politically incorrect, but I just can’t help it.

Andy is riddled with so many quirks and hang-ups that I can’t even begin to describe them all in one blog entry. In some ways, I know Andy’s issues are mental and should be taken seriously, as seriously as his arthritis, but he does so many weird and eccentric things that I can’t help but to laugh and be amused.

For example, in Andy’s first winter, which also happened to be the first winter I was in NJ, Raleigh received one of the biggest snow storms ever on record if not the biggest. The forecast was for 2-4”, plenty big for the Triangle area and enough to shut down the place for a day or two. This snow would also be the first time Andy would ever see any form of winter precipitation. The brunt of the storm hit in the late night or early morning depending on one’s perspective so that when the Triangle residents awoke that morning, there was not a couple of inches of snow on the ground—there was 2ft of snow! This was enough to shut down the city not for just a day but for a whole week. For the gentle readers up North, we in the South have a plan for snow removal called the Solar Thermal Heating Assistance Snow Removal Plan. We don’t need to spend millions upon millions for a fleet of snow trucks and plows since the Sun can take care of the snow the next day. It’s wasteful spending; it’s about as silly as Des Moines, IA having an avalanche contingency plan (or at least to the extent some asshole from Boston expects us to have).

My mom woke up after her sister called her to break the news about the big storm. My mom may very well have seen larger storms since she used to live in Illinois and used to visit relatives in Connecticut in winters up there, but this would be the biggest she has ever seen in Raleigh. Big storm or not, nature called and the babies had to be let out to take care of business. The side door, the one leading to the back where the babies took their morning potty breaks, has glass panes. Andy walked to the door, took a look out, saw the snow, cocked his head back and started howling at the snow like a wolf baying at the moon. My god I wish I were there since it sounds so damned cute! It make me smile just thinking about it.

When Andy is scared, I know he can withdraw into himself shutting himself away from the world. He also will not go to the bathroom when he is scared because of his shy bladder. Fortunately for us, Andy found so much comfort and solace with Abby that he trusted her wholeheartedly. If something was OK for her to eat, then he would eat it. If someplace was acceptable for her to go, then it was OK for him to go there. Abby by this time was well familiar with snow and absolutely loved it. Abby trotted out into the snow and Andy soon followed. It didn’t take long for Andy to become familiar with snow himself and to come to love it. Later, but not too much later, Andy became excited by the site of snow much like Abby was. Their play was more physical than on snow-free days, and they would romp around on the snow much like children would who were given the day off from school. They knew it was special and relished every moment on the snow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Abby's Difficult Time Adjusting

By the time Christmas rolled around in the first year I was in NJ, it was apparent Abby was having a hard time adjusting to my absence. I distinctly remember seeing Abby in the living room and being flabbergasted at how overweight she was during my Christmas visit. My god, she must have put on at least 10 pounds since September but more likely closer to 15. No longer did she have a waist line and now had a sausage shaped body. My mom had done her best to shield me when I asked how Abby was whenever I called by saying “She’s OK” or “She’s happy.” However now it was apparent she was not happy and was most likely sad or even possibly depressed. She was always a nervous eater. In moments of anxiety, she ate food to pacify her for comfort. Since I left, she was much sadder than I could have imagined. Father wasn’t sad. Why couldn’t Abby have been more like him in that respect? Father always loved me, was always happy to see me when I returned but when I left, it was like I didn’t exist—out of site out of mind. I had to get the dog that was complicated, sentimental and sensitive. Why couldn’t she been a wee bit more hedonistic, shallow and self-centered like Father? My mom would tell me later that Abby was mopey all the time, would lie around and have a long, doleful look on her face. She wasn’t enthusiastic about playing and all she wanted to do was sleep and eat. It broke my damn heart.

In my quiet moments in NJ, I missed Abby a whole fucking bunch. There was a scene in the movie As Good As It Gets about ¾ of the way through that summed up my feelings at the time. Melvin Udall had just returned the dog, Verdell, to the neighbor next door after taking care of the dog for a while as the neighbor was convalescing after a savage beating from robbers. The camera pans in on Melvin sitting at the piano playing a plaintive tune, crying and saying “over stupid dog.” I never did anything as brutal as Melvin had such as throwing a dog down a trash chute, but I had my moments with dogs when I was younger. I wasn’t as mean and socially dysfunctional as Melvin, but I had my moments when I was younger. Now here I was lamenting over a dog in the way I would over a person. I kept telling myself “She’s just a dog” but that didn’t comfort me at all. My missing her was exacerbated by the fact that I knew she was missing me and taking our separation so hard.

Eventually Abby would snap out of her funk. When summer rolled around, I visited Raleigh more often and Abby was able to get outside more which kept her mind busy and off of me. She would, though, struggle with her weight for the rest of her baby-girl life. Abby didn’t die of a broken heart from my departure, but it’s easy to see how a dog could after what I experienced with Abby in the first few months after I moved to NJ.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Babys' Vocabulary

Here is a list of words that the babies know/knew. They were smart babies, and there were some words that they knew so well that we had to spell the word so as not to draw attention to what was going to happen or agitate them, words such as ‘play’ or ‘shower.’ I think this is an exhaustive list, but if I remember more at a later time, I will update the list accordingly. I did not include the list of nicknames I had for them. Surprisingly, the babies would respond to their nicknames as well. There were some words that were simply not uttered such as ‘vet’ or ‘veterinarian’. Going to the vet could be a challenge and we didn’t want to make the trip any worse by having them sit in torment on the way over. It was better to let them simply think they were going ‘bye bye’ and then let them figure out where they were going after it was too late for them to balk at going on the trip.

As promised, here they are.

• Abby
• Andy
• Father
• Gary
(My mom’s name)
(My cousin’s name)
• Front
• Play
• Pee pee
• Nighty
• Walk
• Downtown
• Bye bye
• Water
• Watey
• Sit
• Stay
• Come
• Spank
• Stop
• No
• Getty
• Toy
• Ball
• New toy
• Left (Andy)
• Right (Andy)
• Who is that?
• Get up
• Get down
• Shower
• Kissy
• Swim
• Poo poo
• Squirrel
• Nikki
• Kitty cat
• Tooty
• huggy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pecan Pie

Actually, there was a story I remember about my first Thanksgiving after I moved to NJ. On the evening after Thanksgiving dinner, I was sitting in the living room watching TV, what I can’t recall. During my TV viewing, I heard a continuous banging sound ‘bing bing bing’ for a minute or two. It sounded like a little bell was going off—repeatedly. At the time this noise sounded, I didn’t think much of it. However about 5 minutes later, my mom yells out “Andy ate the pecan pie.” I went to the counter where the pie’s remains lay and saw a hollowed out pie with nothing left in the middle and only the crust along the rim of the pie pan. My mom or I didn’t catch Andy in the act. We only had circumstantial evidence.

For those whose knowledge of law comes from pop culture from shows or movies such as Ally McBeal or Legally Blonde, circumstantial evidence is treated like a dirty word, a sneaky trick by the DA to circumvent the rules in convicting otherwise fine and upstanding citizens. But let me say this, suppose one were in Buffalo on a winter’s night and before one went to sleep, there was no snow on the ground. However when one woke up the next day which was sunny and saw that there was 2 ft of snow on the ground, that is strong circumstantial evidence that it had in indeed snowed in Buffalo the night before even though one didn’t “see” it snowing.

And so it was with Pandy Please. We didn’t catch him in the act. Possibly one of the other dogs could have stood on its hind legs and poached the food. Hell, for all we knew, maybe even a family member ate the pie straight from the pan and was ringing a bell while doing so. This is when circumstantial evidence comes into play. When we saw Andy soon after, Andy was licking his lips trying to clean his mouth of all that sweet molasses goodness that got on him. We could also rule out a family member eating the pie because of the binging noise. Andy’s identity tag, a round metal medallion, kept banging against the glass pie pan making that noise for a few minutes. We found the culprit; all that was needed now was a spanking. I thought Andy eating the pecan pie to be so cute that I wanted to squeeze the shit out of him. But for the sake of discipline, I had to punish him. This would be one of the few times Andy would take food from the counter. His willingness to please and his lack of being headstrong made Andy easy to train. He really wanted to be a good boy.

I will admit that when one gives a dog ‘people food’, it makes it hard to teach the dog where and when they can have people food--what is off limits and what isn’t. In their canine eyes, once they know they are allowed to have people food, any of such food that they can reach is fair game. It’s not obviously. They have to know their boundaries making it difficult for people like me who have no dog training experience to teach them as such.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The First Thanksgiving After Moving Out

(Double-click on the above photo for a better look of a dog's head peaking through the breakfast room.)

For my first Thanksgiving break while I was living in NJ, I planned on taking a day off of work the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day and driving down to NC late Tuesday. There was no way in hell I’d drive on that I-95 corridor the day before Thanksgiving. The place is a zoo as it is on a regular day. I can only imagine how bad it would be during the holidays. I changed my plans for some reason. I’m not sure if we were given an extra day off or what but I was going to spend the whole week in NC and return home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

This trip would be bitter sweet because I was going to spend a lot of time with the babies and yet the trip had long lasting effect on Abby. I know the decision to take the whole week off was quickly made. I left from my NJ home around 7:30 that night which meant I would be arriving in NC around 3am. I am a night owl so driving this late was not a problem for me. By the time I passed through the DC area, it was around 11 or 12 at night. This was the only time traffic was not backed up during my many trips back and forth through that area. The night being clear and the traffic being light, I was able to look up the Potomac without having to focus on traffic and for the first time in my adult life, I saw the Washington Memorial. The trip was otherwise uneventful without any cockamamie delays, football games at RFK or road construction.

When I arrived home, everyone had gone to sleep. As I pulled up the driveway, I could see Abby’s head silhouetting in the breakfast room window. She almost had a smile on her face and her tail was wagging back and forth so strongly that her whole body began to move from side to side. I was happy to see her yet I was worried that she was sleeping by herself in the kitchen area or den at night. Normally, my mom told me, Abby slept in her bedroom at night either at the foot of her bed or on the floor. But on this night, Abby didn’t want to sleep with my mom. In an attempt to curb Andy’s sneaking out of the bedroom at night, my mom closed her bedroom door so it wasn’t as if Abby had left the bedroom in the middle of the night to go elsewhere. Once my mom closed that bedroom door, everyone in that bedroom was locked in for the night or conversely, everyone not in the bedroom was locked out.

I don’t remember much about that trip other than the trip down and Abby greeting me when I arrived. One would think that a week’s vacation would prompt many memories but it didn’t. I’m sure I spent quite a bit of time with the babies, but there was not much else to comment on for that vacation.

The next day I asked my mom why Abby was out in the kitchen by herself and not with the other dogs with in her bedroom. My mom assured me that Abby normally slept in her bedroom with her and that the previous night was an exception. This late arrival of mine had a sad effect on Abby. From then on for a year or two, Abby no longer slept in my mom’s room. Instead she slept in the den or kitchen where she could keep a close eye on anyone coming up the driveway. From then on, Abby associated the late night with the possibility of my coming home and she wanted to be there waiting for me when I did return. Instead of having the companionship of my mom and two dogs, Abby pined away at night for me. I’m sure every night she thought that it would be the night I would come back.

I remember my mom trying to assure me that Abby would be OK when I moved away and Abby wouldn’t take it hard. It was apparent a few months after I moved that Abby was taking this much harder than I anticipated. Looking back, I don’t know what I could have done. There is no telling how she would have responded had she moved to NJ. She would have been alone for many hours of the day. Surely she would have missed my mom, the dogs and the house as much as she was missing me. It was a sad dilemma with no easy answers.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Last Swim of the Season

By mid October in NC, the pool water is still warm enough for swimming but the temperature by then usually has noticeably fallen quite a ways below the ‘bath water’ warmth that pools in the South often reach at the height of summer. The water in the early Fall is usually in the 60’s which would sting a little when first entering but after a few minutes I would have acclimated myself to the cooler water and enjoy the pool. When I was swimming (yes, it’s hard to believe w/ my full back body that I used to be a swimmer even at the collegiate level), the outdoor pool at the start of the long course season would be awfully cold with the temperatures in the water sometimes falling into the mid to upper 50’s. Now that was painful and numbing. On days like that, it was the closest to being a gelding as I was ever going to be. I will say no more about that.

On this weekend of my visit back since moving to NJ, I instituted a new rule: The ’60 degree Rule’ which meant that as long as the pool was 60 degrees or warmer, I would get in and play with the babies since this would be so much fun for them and so exciting. The moment of truth was when I reached into the pool to grab the pool thermometer to view the water’s temperature. On that weekend, the pool was between 60 and 65. This was going to hurt, but I had to do it. I always hated getting in cold water. I shriek like a little girl making an ass out of myself when the pool is that cold only adding to Abby’s excitement. Abby almost always got in the pool when I did, and on that weekend it was no exception.

One redeeming quality about the pool in that time of year is that the water tends to be clearer than in the summer since the yellow mustard doesn’t do well in cold water. As long as the sun was out the cold pool was bearable with the warming rays on my body. We played for a couple of hours in the pool that Saturday and had lots of fun. The weather couldn’t have been better.

The next day, I had to fly back to NJ. The flight was in the early evening, and I had to give myself an extra hour to return the rental car and take the shuttle to my terminal. After I packed my bag and dressed, I stood in the breakfast room and gave my farewells to my mom. Abby saw that I had on a polo shirt and jeans. She ran over to me. The jig was up, and she knew I was leaving. It broke my heart to see her that sad and for her to realize I would be leaving.

On the trip back, I do want to add something about going through RDU gate security. Earlier in the year on every trip I made through RDU while I was traveling to central NJ, San Diego and San Francisco, security pulled me aside and went through my baggage. Being the passive-aggressive person that I can be, I pulled out a weapon of the weak and concocted a scheme to get back at their asses. On Saturday, I went for a short jog through the neighborhood. Since my late teens, I have always sweated heavily regardless of how light or heavy I was and it could be embarrassing. However on this day, I was going to use this to my advantage. I set aside my running clothes so that on Sunday when I packed, I could place the dirty laundry right on top of the heap so it would be conspicuous upon opening the luggage. As I went through security, once again a guard wanted to go through and inspect my bags. I gave no objection when she asked. The zipper slowly made its way open and there it was, the soiled laundry sitting right there on top pretty as it could be. The guard gritted her teeth and winced. After poking the top of the clothes with a probe, she abruptly stopped the inspection and let me pass through. Otherwise, my trip back to NJ was uneventful and the aerial view of NYC lights was awesome that night.


Another tradition that I first became aware of in my first visit back to NC after moving to NJ can simply be described as ‘Front’ in which the dogs demanded that we let them out front to play even though we had a nice big fenced in yard for them to play in out in the back. This isn’t to say that they never went in the front yard when I was living in Raleigh. As a matter of fact, we often went to the front yard such as to let Abby and the others chase the squirrels. On discovering how much Abby loved chasing squirrels, I kept the bird feeders around the yard filled with bird seed which lured the squirrels to these areas. Abby came close to some squirrels once or twice but she never killed one or even hurt one but possibly scared the crap out of a few. Andy did catch up with a few squirrels but he truly didn’t know what he was doing thinking it was a game and let the little rascals off the hook as they scampered into the nearby wooded area. Father has caught and ate squirrels before but on these events when I would open the door and let Abby initiate the chase; Father would tag along to be with the group and would not be in ‘hunting mode.’ Indeed, Father would be chasing the other dogs rather than the squirrels. Poor Father could be clueless and confused at times, but the guy was having a wonderful time and just glad to be alive.

When I lived in Raleigh, we would go out front 3 or 4 times a week and but I was the one who would initiate the trips to the front yard. Often precipitating an excursion out front was a squirrel sighting at a bird feeder out there. I would agitate Abby by repeating in a shrill voice ‘See that squirrel, Baby Girl? Get it Baby Girl.’ After saying this a few times, Abby would be chomping at the bit and run to the door and wait for me to let her out. The other dogs would themselves be revved up because of Abby’s state of anxiousness. Once I had them whipped into frenzy, I would quickly open the door and watch them burst over the threshold like they were horses coming out of the gate at Churchill Downs. Off they would go to the bird feeder with the squirrel perched on top which had a couple of choices. First, it could climb high in the tree and wait it out. It could also climb up the tree, panic, jump down and scurry into the woods. Or the squirrel could immediately jump off the bird feeder and make a run for it into the woods. Whichever decision the squirrel made, Abby and the others were assured to be entertained and have fun. I must emphasize that Abby or the other dogs never caught the squirrels when these games were played. Because this play fought Abby’s boredom and helped her get some exercise, I encouraged these games.

However, at some point around the time I moved to NJ, the dogs themselves would demand to go out front. How does a dog demand to go out front? As noted before, Abby knew how to ask to be let outside. However when we would go to the side door leading to the backyard, the dogs would walk past that door and walk a few feet through the foyer to the front door. There they would stand and look up at us like ‘Open it.’ Even if I wanted them to go in the backyard and had the side door open, they refused to budge from the front door area. I would then ask them ‘Do you want to go out front?’ They responded by moving their feet in a quick manner fidgeting around, breathing hard and panting. I would open the door and out they went.

What I couldn’t understand about the babies is what was so great about the front yard in comparison to the back. Like I mentioned earlier, even if I opened the door to the backyard, once they got a notion to go out front, they refused to go in the backyard. The backyard was almost an acre of fenced in fun with a pool, hills trees and a bird feeder of its own. All the things they could do out front could be done in the back, squirrels included. However in the dwindling hours of the afternoon was when Abby would start her campaign for us to let her out front. The other dogs joined in for the fun. It was almost as if Abby could sense the day’s drawing to a close which prompted her to demand we go out front. When the sun lowered to a certain angle in the den where my mom spent most of her waking hours, the light shining in Abby’s eyes would be like a beacon luring her to go out front and play.

Chasing squirrels may have been the event starting this tradition, but later the dogs like going out front for the sake of going out front. It was a change of venue compared to the backyard, I suppose. There were most likely different smells and definitely different sites out there keeping the dogs interested in the front yard. I never had to worry about them running into the street. It never happened; not even once or at least after the ‘out front tradition’ started. Abby didn’t go to the street because of a spanking she received when she ran to the road when she was young. She learned her lesson well. Then there was the matter of Andy. He followed Abby around so if she didn’t go somewhere, then he wouldn’t go. Father wouldn’t run into the street either even though he had free run of the neighborhood. He loved hanging around us and didn’t want to miss out by gallivanting around the neighborhood.

There was a quirk about going out front. The babies demanded that someone escort them in the yard and supervise them while they were out there. Since I trusted them, sometimes I went inside once in a while such as to answer the phone or use the bathroom. Regardless, upon discovering the absence of their owners the babies would be in a small panic with looks of consternation on their faces that read ‘Where did he/she go?’ They would trot inside looking for us worried that we may no longer be there for them. For some reason, they could or would not play out front unless one of their owners was out there with them. When they found us, they would run back to the front door and give us a look that said ‘Get out.’

So, on that weekend, the first one when I came back from NJ for a visit is when I became aware of the new tradition of going out front in which the dogs demanded to go there and would no longer wait for me or my mom to ask them. I was in the den, the sun shone on Abby’s face from the late afternoon sun and Abby started barking and bouncing up and down while looking at my mom. I asked my mom what they wanted, and she said they wanted to go out front. My mom asked them ‘front?’ and this seem to hit the sweet spot for them as they dashed down the steps from the den into the foyer and to the front door. This seemed to satisfy and pacify them at the same time. Even if a squirrel wasn’t in the front yard, there was plenty enough for them to do out there to keep them entertained and busy. This tradition of going out front continues to this day despite the fact that Andy’s squirrel chasing days are long behind him.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Andy's Growing Vocabulary

On the Saturday during the weekend of my first visit back home after I moved to NJ, I went to the kitchen for a snack. I was looking through the cabinets when I noticed that Andy had tippy-tipped into the kitchen to inspect what I was doing. At first he was simply gazing up at me with his cutey-pie face taking in everything I did with great curiosity. Though when I reached into the cabinet, pulled down a bag of Reese’s Pieces and started snacking on them, Andy’s behavior changed quite a bit.

First, he started bouncing up and down on his front legs while his back legs were anchored to the floor. For a moment I thought he was going to jump up on me or at least lean on the counter in an attempt to get some candy. But after a few bounces, I knew he wasn’t going to do anything that drastic. Realizing this tactic wasn’t working, Andy started shifting his weight again and again from his front right leg to his front left leg while his back legs were firmly planted on the ground. Overall this had an effect of him appearing he was tap dancing. As cute as I thought this was, this was a poor attempt at begging. For some reason, Abby had begging down to an art form. I won’t begin to compare and contrast their begging styles, but Abby was a master at it. Sure, Andy let it be known that he wanted food but he came close to crossing the line from begging to coercion. He was almost forceful and imposing on his attempt to get food from us. There was nothing subtle or slick about what Andy was doing.

A few minutes after I was in the kitchen, my mom walked in and I asked her “What the hell is he doing?” At that point, I didn’t even know he was trying to beg. I thought he had to go outside and pee by the way he was acting so antsy. My mom replied “He wants a tooty.” “What is a tooty?” I asked. My mom explained that a tooty was a treat for the dogs such as candy or cookies. The derivation of this particular word is unknown to me but the word’s usage has stuck ever since. Later that day in an attempt to see if Andy really knew what a tooty was, I called out to Andy “Do you want a tooty?” Sure enough, Andy trotted into the kitchen expecting some kind of treat (He got a tooty by the way). This new word, a part of an ever growing list in Andy’s vocabulary, has been a part of his lexicon for the last 12 years. When I offer him food, I often ask him if he wants a tooty, and he will reply by perking his ears, craning his neck and cocking his head a little to the side in a display of cuteness that words cannot do justice to how cute it really is.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Missy Kissy: A New Ritual and More Baby Talk

It could have been the first visit to Raleigh after I moved to NJ when Abby started a new routine/ritual of licking my face just before we went to sleep while we were in bed. If this didn’t start on the first visit, it definitely started within the first few visits after the move. When I lived in Raleigh, Abby always slept with me. At first she slept at the head of the bed pressed tightly against my face but eventually she started sleeping at the foot of the bed on the right side of the bed while I slept on the left side. I suspect Abby needed her space, and she may also have been trying to put some distance between her and my snoring. She could also have been avoiding me because in my sleep, I thrash around in the bed, so much so that I will kick off the sheets and have them in a tangled up mess by morning. There were a few times when I accidentally hit Abby in my sleep.

After I moved, or at least for a few months, Abby slept in my mom’s room either on the bed towards the foot of the bed, or if the night was warm, she would sleep on the ground where it was a little cooler especially on the hardwood floors. However when I would visit, Abby would spend the night in my old room—her old room as well. Something my mom had done in the four or five weeks I was in NJ was to rearrange the furniture in my old bedroom. The bed no longer abutted the wall and was now in the middle of the room. Aesthetically, the rearranged room was better than the cluttered mess I made the room into during my stay there. It sorta hurt my feelings that she changed the room so fast. But this wasn’t as traumatic for me as when I when to college in my undergrad days and what she did to my old room at that time. Then, I moved my stuff in two car loads. The first load was a few days before the start of classes. The second load was to be two weeks later when I came back during Labor Day when I had more time to complete the 340 mi round trip. When I entered my room to pick up belongings for the second load, my mom had not only rearranged the furniture in my room but she had remodeled it by buying new curtains, painting it and replacing my posters with some prints she recently purchased. It was if I had not been in that room which I had grown up in. When my mom got a notion to decorate a room, she didn’t dawdle around and completed her task with an avid enthusiasm. She was like a mechanism—a decorating machine.

Back to Abby’s new ritual. On the first night of a visit, Abby would face me, place her paws on my chest and start to lick my face. She would keep licking my face for a few minutes. She never did this when I was living in Raleigh, or at least in bed like that. She also never put her paws on my chest that way either. I still don’t know why she did this. Could it simply be because she missed me? Was she somehow trying to ‘mark’ me? Was she trying to absorb the scents I had picked up from my new home? After the licking was over, she would return to her normal place at the right of the foot of the bed and fall asleep.

I described this ritual as the ‘missy kissy.’ It was a combination of the words ‘miss’ + ‘kiss’ but in the form of ‘baby talk.’ One other note about this routine was not only did Abby do this on the first night of my return during a visit, but she would not do this on the subsequent nights of a particular visit. I never could understand this behavior of Abby’s but it was a bonding moment that we didn’t share with anyone else. I’m not averse to playing favorites.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

First Trip Back to NC

I had been in NJ for a month when I made my first visit back home to NC. Our hiring bonus at Hoechst Marion Roussel was generous especially for a low-ranking scientist such as me. This package allotted money for one plane trip back to our old home which I readily used. This would be one of the few times I would fly to NC. The next time I would fly to NC would be on my interview trip three and a half years later when GSK flew me down to RTP in 2002.

My boss at HMR allowed me to leave work early so I arranged for a 5pm flight from Newark Intl. to RDU. I took off work at 2:30 and made the 40 min journey to Newark without any problems. For those who are not from the NYC metro area, a lot of bad things can happen in that area and it is so easy to get lost on the highways there which from above looks like a bowl of spaghetti the way they are knotted up and entangled. I knew of one guy who ‘thought’ he was going to Newark Intl. but took a wrong turn, ended up in a tunnel and came out somewhere in Manhattan. Another person I know who was from NM took a rental car and in an attempt to drive to central NJ, found herself in Philadelphia somewhere.

So I was thankful I made it to Newark uneventfully. I parked in a long term parking lot which is at least a mile from my terminal so I had to take a shuttle to finish my journey to the airport itself. In the meantime, I waited and watched the planes fly in. It’s amazing the flight traffic Newark handles which makes it clear that one glitch or back-up can lead to a cascade of events delaying flights for minutes and even hours. Fortunately for me, the weather was clear not only in Newark but in Chicago as well. For some reason, any delays at Newark are attributed to ‘bad weather’ in Chicago.

I only had one carry-on bag so I was able to make it through security quickly and consequently depart the airport quickly at RDU. I rented a car at RDU and drove home. The biggest difference between NJ and NC (or at least central NC) during that trip was that the leaves were still green and lush while in NJ the trees had started the Fall change. Something I noticed about NJ is that the Spring there starts later in the year than in NC and is shorter as well. However the Fall lasts longer and the leaves changing tends to be more vivid and colorful than in central NC.

While I was away a few things had changed. First my mom had bought some new furniture for her den. (This was the start of her Grand Spending Spree) She spent an overwhelming amount of time in there reading books, talking on the phone and watching TV. She loved this furniture but I thought it was a terrible choice. The couch and seats were cloth covered. Anyone with a big dog knows how hard it is to clean fabric furniture. Try as you may, it just can’t be done. The filth and grime from the dogs become a part of that fabric digging deep down into the cloth. Furthermore, the fabric is a trap for all smells, good or bad. And it seems like the bad smells trump the good ones. Also, the color of the furniture was not well thought out as far as how it would look as the furniture aged. It was a light yellow couch, but I can’t describe the pattern on the couch and seats. The most important point is the fact that light yellow doesn’t hide dirt that well, and as these items began to show wear and tear, the dirt displayed itself in an obvious manner and made the furniture dull and grungy.

As I drove up the hill, the babies could hear me, and I could see their little heads peeping through the breakfast room window which has a clear vantage point to our driveway. I got out of the car and could hear the babies barking loudly. By the time I made it to the kitchen door, the babies were there to greet me--Abby, Andy and Father. Father was hopping around. I was surprised that he was so happy to see me. Andy was happy too, but I wasn’t sure why. I’m not sure if he was happy that it was me myself that he missed. I also wondered if he was happy because of the fact that someone, anyone, was there and that he simply loved company. He could have been excited because Abby was excited. Andy almost always followed Abby’s lead and responded accordingly. By this time, Andy was over 5mos old and he had grown quite a bit. He must have been over 50lbs at that time. No longer was a lap dog. It’s always a sad moment when a larger breed dog transitions from the puppy stage to an young adult stage and can no longer sit on someone’s lap. The dog is often confused and frustrated that it can’t sit on its owner’s lap, and after a few futile attempts to do so, they get the message and no longer try to sit on their owner anymore.
I opened the kitchen door and all three dogs tried to jump up on me. I leaned over and let all three of them kissy me. Even Father gave a few quick kisses. I put down my bag, walked into the den and greeted my mom who was sitting on the couch. I sat on one of those new cloth chairs when my mom reminded me that the dogs were not allowed on the furniture. I had known about this new rule a couple of weeks ago when my mom told me on the phone. I was irritated because I knew Abby would be confused and hurt since before I left, she had free run of the house including getting up on furniture. If my mom wanted to enforce such a rule, she should have started it when Abby was a puppy and not when she was nearly 2 ½ years old. I was further irritated because of the fact that my mom chose to buy cloth covered furniture since she had three large dogs that often spent time outside and in a pool in the back.

I had no sooner sat in the chair than Abby had jumped over the chair’s armrest and climbed behind me and sat between me and the back of the chair. She stared at me mom with a look that said ‘What are you going to do about it? HE’S back and you can’t do anything to me.’ My mom fussed a little but she caved in to Abby’s scheming deviousness and let her stay on the chair. From then on, my mom gave up her ‘No dogs on the furniture’ decree and let the babies climb on the furniture whenever they wanted.

Abby’s excitement was so palpable and sweet. She knew better than to get on that chair but she was overcome with happiness of my arrival that she disregarded my mom’s orders and climbed on the chair. She wanted to be as close to me as possible and didn’t give a damn about any rules! I was home and Baby Girl was happy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wee Willie: A Little Backtracking

After my dad’s recent death, I was looking at some old photos to select for what would be incorporated into a slide show as part of his memorial service a week and a half ago. There were some photos I had only seen once or twice in the last 30 years or so, especially the photos my dad had made into 35mm slides. One thing I noticed is that there were many photos of cats, much more than we had of the plain old photos I found in our old albums. Since I had the time available, I bought a special scanner so I could scan all of our old 35mm slides into the computer. Over all, there were about 650 slides we have that I scanned into the computer in the last week.

One photo I saw was of a black and white cat. I can’t remember his name. My mom said it was Wee Willie, but for some reason, that doesn’t sound right, but for the sake of this story, I will call this cat Wee Willie. Sure, we had a cat named Wee Willie, but I’m not sure if that was the name of the cat this story is about. Anyway, Wee Willie had a few marks of distinction that no other cats of ours had. First, Wee Willie was an outdoor cat that transitioned to an indoor cat. In an earlier entry, I noted that very few of our numerous cats were allowed indoors. The ‘indoor cats’ could go in and out of the house, but the ‘outdoor cats’ exclusively stayed outside. The outdoor cats were fed on the porch and often hung around the front yard. They were friendly often times, loved to be petted but they almost never wanted to go inside. You could even hold the door wide open for them and they had no desire to go in. We also rarely named the outdoor cats. We had so many, and they came and went so often that it was hard to keep track of them.

I forgot who Wee Willie’s parents were, but I remember he was a particularly sweet cat. On colder days, he would hang around in the utility room at the back of the house since it was a little warmer than the outdoors in the winter. I would go to the utility room to play with and love him. He was such a loving cat that I convinced my parents to let Wee Willie have a shot at being an indoor cat. My parents went for it so Wee Willie made his way in. He was one of the few cats to make the conversion from an outdoor cat to an indoor one. He made the transition quite well. And by a successful conversion, I mean he got along with everyone in the house, and he didn’t tear up the furniture or use the bathroom in the house. Furthermore, since this cat officially became an indoor cat, he was entitled to having a name, and that name was Wee Willie. How we gave him that name, I have not a clue. As I’ve said before, my parents gave our pets some strange and weird names.

The most odd feature about this cat, and I guess it was an extension of his being such a sweet and loving cat, was that he would lick our faces. We have had some loyal and loving cats. These cats would love to be petted, and they would rub themselves against our bodies and would lie as close as they could to us and press their bodies tightly against ours. But unlike dogs, cats don’t like to lick people or as I say ‘kissy’ like dogs do. I can’t begin to explain why since I am no expert on animal behavior.

Wee Willie loved to sniff our faces and lick us as well. I don’t know what prompted me to let Wee Willie to do this but I opened my mouth one time when he was licking me and damned if he didn’t stick his head in there. Not only that, but he actually tried to lick inside my mouth as well! I didn’t tell anyone of this since this was a secret I thought I should have kept to myself. However, after Wee Willie transitioned to inside the house, he would lick my dad’s face and just like Wee Willie had done with me, the cat stuck its head in my dad’s mouth. I don’t know how the subject of a cat-sticking-its-head-in-the-mouth subject was broached, but it was. How awkward was that conversation!

Wee Willie eventually died, how I don’t know. Many of our cats would quietly walk away into the woods when they were ill never to be seen again. I guess it was not in their nature to show weakness to us when they became sick. I suppose Wee Willie vanished just like many other of our cats had. He distinguished himself because he was so sweet, made it into the house after he had been cast as an outdoor cat, and most oddly he would lick our faces and stick his head in our mouths. Now that was trust if I’ve ever seen it!