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Grandma, Ornithologist

19 May


I see you have two different kinds of birds here. (Where Here=NC, not Home IL)


Which two kinds?


The kind that build nests, and the kind that don’t.

*Please make a note of that.


I Can’t Win.

17 May

You all remember how much I love breakfast, right?

Even after having conquered the ‘what do you want for breakfast?’ part, I am left with the running breakfast commentary, or lack of one. It’s an endless stream of observations, all pointless. Like I am stuck in some ring of Hell that is nothing but an eternal cocktail party of completely fucking boring people, and I am Guest Number One.

“It sure has been rainy.”

Yes, yes it has.

“Looks like the wasps are coming back.”

Yes, yes they are.

At least it wasn’t politics.

Today Grandma did me the favor of revealing her new fixation, which is, whether or not Oliver has survived another night. She used to be fixated on what the neighbors were doing when she had the benefit of a cul-de-sac to monitor, and I have been wondering what would be her new raison d’etre (yes, I know the ‘e’ needs a little hat on it, bit I’m too damn lazy to figure that out right now) and this morning, I got the news.

As I stood at the coffee machine, mindlessly watching it brew, Grandma screams, “Ooooh! Thank God!”

Sleepily trying to put two and eight together, in the non sequitur that is Grandma, I asked, “Thank God what, Grandma?”

“Ollie. He’s still alive.”

Now because I like you people, I’m going to condense this. What we have here is the real time birth of a Grandma Worry. Grandma can now, each and every morning, lay in her bed and listen for Ollie to bark. In the absence of said bark, she can readily and incorrectly surmise that he has not survived the night. She can, full blown, imagine his rapidly decaying corpse just outside the back door, because, it’s not like we’d ever notice anything like that. And then each morning, upon her scanning and listening from the breakfast table and receiving visual or audible confirmation of his not-death, she can then exclaim, “He’s still alive!”

Until at which point he isn’t. And then we can look forward to all the wonderful things that then dead Ollie would have embodied, were he still alive.

I can’t wait, and I can’t win.

Oliver, Part Two

3 May

Oliver in his SCU (stink containment unit), aka towel. I know, I should have gone to work for NASA.

This is the real Oliver. As time has passed, he has developed an incurable stench and lost the majority of his teeth. Neither of which were an impediment to his continued march toward the Guinness World record for oldest Corgi. I read somewhere that it was 28. This was interesting news to read.

The main problem currently is his hind legs. He is losing ability to use them at an alarming rate. He has trouble standing, walking, and most recently having balance issues while trying to relieve himself. Of course, none of these bode very well for him making that world record.

But not in Grandma’s mind. She defends him against what she sees as my death panel mentality. “But there’s not really anything wrong with him, except his back legs!”

Well that and he has no teeth, smells like a hot dumpster, can’t hear and is costing me a fortune in wet food and baby aspirin, but other than that, she’s right, he’s perfectly fine.

It’s hard enough to make the decision that it’s time for me to let go of him without her constant input. This dog has been a fixture in my life for sixteen years. He has been with me and sometimes without me. When our Mother was terminally ill, he came with me to Illinois, and promptly got lost in a maze of never-ending cornfields for what seemed like a week. My Mom dying and my dog lost. That was definitely a ‘well, fuck me’ time. He was with me through my first marriage. He went and lived with Jamie when I was in Paris. He was there for the birth of Shelby and toddler Evan. He protectively herded and guarded them both, from playpens, to watching over them as they played on their dock. Always there. Always watching.

He was there for my return, my remarriage, and at least four moves. He is here now still, doing his best to stand and guard Grandma when she spends time on the patio. He still has an uncanny ability to sense who needs protected and who does not. He still barks when the other dogs run and play. And I know in his mind he is running right along side them.

I understand Grandma’s attachment and kinship with another being in their twilight. I wonder how she will fare when the inevitable comes to pass. Obviously this is difficult to write about, let alone carry out. If and when you see an Oliver, The Final Chapter, you may not want to read it. Just know that Oliver is the Best Dog Ever, just as Grandma is the Best Grandma Ever. I have the same feelings about both of them and wish, that just for one day, I could visit with them both in 1994. It was a good year.

Oliver, Part One

3 May


*not Oliver, but probably also crazy. I know that look.


Oliver is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. He was born in late 1991 according to his former owners who were giving him away in 1994, the year I got him. Fortunately, unlike today, no red flag went up in my brain as I listened to their reasons for giving him away. Too much time at work and a new baby were the main reasons. The other ones I would find out on our ride home.

Looking back, I am fairly sure that high dollar had been paid for Oliver. He most likely came from a breeder who focused on herding as the prime trait, in addition to his perfect conformation. I am also sure that his time with his first two Yuppie owners was a disaster. When I loaded his crate and things into the car, and finally him, I saw relief wash over their faces. No phone number or the ability to return him was offered.

I didn’t care. I had a pure-bred Pembroke Welsh Corgi, all my own, for free. Dog WIN.

Until we turned onto Wendover Avenue, at which point Ollie became completely deranged. Inside my Geo Metro, bouncing of all the seats and the back of my head, was one crazy ass Corgi. He lunged, barked, bounced and chased every passing car. Finally, I had to pull over and put his leash on him. I simply couldn’t drive with this idiot dog flailing all over the car. It was then that I discovered Ollie’s other defining trait, stubbornness. With the leash on, steering with one hand and choking Oliver with the leash hand, we took off again. And again, each passing car brought on the same crazed response. As I yanked hard and correctively on the leash, he would choke himself until he could barely squeeze out a bark, but kept up the crazy.

I thought to myself, ‘I know dogs. I can fix this.’

Ahem. That fix took 2 years of corrective action, riding around with a near rabid acting dog in the car. It was awesome. The best I could do was get him to the point where he would shake convulsively each time a car passed, but remain seated and stifle his bark.

In the first week, I was exposed to every quirk and thing I would never be able to fix. He herded me endlessly. The only way to not have Ollie at my ankles was to sit down. I mean every step. If I went to the bathroom and closed the door, he would bark constantly until I came out. He chased the postman (from inside the house) every single day. Climbing and jumping over furniture, ripping down blinds and curtains all with me screaming after him. The postman would just wave and laugh. When Oliver wanted to scratch himself, he would drag his entire body down the length of my brand new $3000 sofa. No amount of screaming or swatting would change that.

It was at his first bath that I knew he was crazy. I swear to God, I wish I had this on film, because there is no way I can accurately describe the disaster that was his first bath. I took him on the leash to the paved driveway and turned on the hose. As I squeezed the nozzle to spray, Ollie spun around, full on crazy, snapping and barking at the water stream. Each time I would try to spray his back, he would flip around, jumping and pouncing and barking, trying to attack the water. I ended up standing on the leash with Ollie’s head trapped against the pavement, his body flipping around like a fish out of water. My neighbors quit talking to me right around this time. All future baths were conducted inside, with a cup to pour the water over him. No more hose. At least not in that way.

As it turns out, his first bath revealed Ollie’s most beloved past time, playing what we finally termed, ‘hose.’ All you had to do was say ‘hose’ and Ollie would run to it and wait, like an Apple fan for an iPad. Eyes glazed over, he would not move. If Ollie happened to be inside the house, and some watering started, he would go ballistic. He would chase the lawn sprinkler until his tongue was hanging out. When Boo was little, she had a flower head sprinkler. Once we forgot to turn it off and left the house. When we came back, Ollie was still going at the flower sprinkler, three and a half hours later. He could barely muster the strength for a bark. He slept really well that night.

So what does all of this have to do with Grandma? Grandma loves Oliver. Oliver is nineteen years old. Sticking with the conventional dog/human age comparison, he is 133. He is in very poor shape. He is on medication. They have a lot in common.