FLAPJACK’S FAREWELL

I curiously find myself lying on a pad in the vet’s office.  Mom and Dad are gazing down at me, tears streaming from their eyes, telling me that everything is going to be OK.

As always, I can somehow feel what they are thinking.  Their thoughts carry me back to when we first met at a canine adoption event; adapting to my new home; running like the wind as I chase that poor Frisbee that could never get away; bounding through the house, out to the yard where I explored for hours; writing children’s books which I hoped brought joy to many…

The vet is now sticking a needle in my hip, and she tells me that I will be getting very sleepy.  As I grow drowsy, I hear Mom and Dad say that they will always love me, and that soon I will be in a great place.  I think about that.  What could be a greater place than where I was living?  Mom and Dad look so sad, and I want to tell them that I’m OK, that my purpose was to make them happy and now it doesn’t seem like I’m succeeding.

But I think I get it.  For the last year, I have not been myself.  I’m a dog, so I can’t explain the technical ailments.  I just know that I could no longer run and I had some kind of stomach ache.  So now, I think they brought me here to peacefully end my life, and that explains the tears.  I want to tell Mom and Dad how much I love them, but I’m sure they know.

As I sink deeper into sleep, I can barely feel another needle entering my rear leg.  I feel myself drifting away..maybe heading to that great place they were talking about.  And now, with Mom and Dad cradling my head, I can feel their love propelling me – willing me – into a wondrous realm of painless joy.  Perhaps I’ll see them again in that place.  I sure hope so.  If it is even half as nice as where I’ve been, it must be fantastic.  It’s sad to leave, but there is no choice.  And, come to think of it, I am ready for another adventure.

BeneFlaptor to the Arts

One of the disadvantages of aging is the outpouring of attention (read by some as “pity”) lavished on the chronologically endowed.  I know.  As I have advanced into my golden years, people have gazed at me with sympathetic expressions and have physically handled me as if I would disintegrate at the slightest touch.  Unfortunately, Mom and Dad are not exceptions to this phenomenon.  In fact, they are even reluctant to leave me alone while they are out doing heaven knows what.

This week, they carried this worrisome obsession to its illogical extreme.  They were scheduled to go to a play at a local theater, and two nights later, to an operatic concert.  They were unjustifiably worried about me, so they decided in their infinite wisdom to take me along as their “service dog”.  They know that service dogs are permitted virtually anywhere, and that the definition of a service dog is imprecise and purposefully vague.  Now, let’s be clear:  I am no service dog.  Truth be told, I am the antithesis of one who serves.  I have fashioned myself as an entertaining obstruction to whatever objectives my companions have in mind.  Nevertheless, off we all went to the theater.

The theater’s capacity was about 200, and it was a full house.  Mom and Dad sat in the front row, and had me lie down in front of them.  Dad had torn apart an old sweatshirt, scrawled “Service Dog” on it, and tied it around my midsection.  He thought it looked great, obviously blinded to the reality that I looked like a stuffed animal that a 4-year old child used for a dress-up game.  People stared, but this is the price I pay for living with the mentally challenged.

The play’s many segments were separated by short “black-out” periods, where the set was rearranged.  The opening scene was set in an apartment with the usual furnishings, including an inviting sofa.  The sofa looked much more comfortable than the hard floor on which I was stationed.  So, at the first “black-out”, I quietly arose, walked on set and positioned myself on the sofa.  When the lights came up, the audience gasped, somehow realizing that I was not meant to be part of the play.  Mom and Dad were characteristically apoplectic.  The actors, being consummate professionals, carried on as if I wasn’t there.  I fell asleep.  At the end of the segment, the lights dimmed and two burly stage hands carried the sofa and its new passenger off stage.  I eventually found my way back to Mom and Dad, who were still paralyzed with shock, laid down on the hard floor and resumed my nap.  At the end of the performance, the actors called me back onstage for a bow.  I received the biggest ovation of the evening.

Two nights later, one of the finest operatic divas of all time, Renee Fleming, was performing at a large, beautiful concert hall.  Mom and Dad admonished me to behave myself, and we were on our way.  Since no “black-out” periods were anticipated, my companions felt confident that I would not get into any trouble.  After a couple of beautiful songs, Ms Fleming launched into an astounding aria, “O Mio Babbino Caro”, which contained a number of high notes that I thought only dogs could hear.  They immediately struck an emotional nerve which travelled from my brain to my vocal chords.  I sat up and began to accompany Ms Fleming with the most stunning harmony.  The wonderful acoustics of the venue enhanced our duet, until the star on stage abruptly stopped and stared in my direction.  I imagined that she was so taken with my performance that she wanted me on stage for a solo.  I started my journey in that direction, when Dad abruptly grabbed me, and we all hurriedly headed for the exit.  And then, something glorious happened.  The audience rose and gave me a standing ovation.  Even Renee Fleming was clapping and smiling.  But Dad was furious, excoriating me as we walked up the aisle.  As we left, Dad muttered, “Well, Flap, you’re two for two…what’s next?”  We all knew the answer.

Tonight, Mom and Dad are going out again.  I’ll be staying home.  I don’t know what happened to all that concern about leaving me alone in my dotage.  But I do know that, because of their concern, this week’s  local cultural scene has benefitted immensely.

The Clarion Sound of the TRUMPet

“Don’t go Trump on me,” Dad said.

“What”?

“You heard me.”  Yeah, I heard him, but as all too often happens, I had no idea what he was saying.

Perhaps I should backtrack a bit.  Last night, Dad was watching the Republican debate.  Mom asked him why he was wasting his time with a panel of screaming buffoons who offer no substantive benefit to our collective national condition.  Dad replied that this circus, while unalloyed in its stupidity, was of immense entertainment value.  And Donald Trump did not disappoint.  His bombastic, insulting, demeaning, arrogant tripe while starkly short on facts, was admittedly captivating..up to the point when one realizes that a growing number of the electorate are seriously supporting him.  Then, those like Dad began to transition from amused to concerned.  At the end of the debate, Mom asked Dad if he enjoyed watching a racist, misogynist, nativist miscreant spout bile for two hours.  Dad said that it was impolite to refer to me in that manner, and Mom shot him one of her patented looks which caused Dad to humbly apologize to me.  Then Dad explained that he was just as interested in watching Cruz and Rubio and to imagine what the nation would look like as a theocracy where the clock would be turned back on women’s rights.  Mom said, “You already knew this.  You’d be better off watching a mindless basketball game.”  She had a point, but there was something compelling to Dad about watching this bit of Americana..something akin to watching lemmings in the vicinity of a cliff.

So, that brings us back to this morning.  On our walk, as we approached a tree upon which I typically micturate, I noticed that another dog – a mixed breed – had just finished using the same tree for the same purpose.  I turned my nose up at the tree, and sought out another target.  That’s when Dad uttered the Trump comment.  He apparently thought that I was shunning my favorite tree because I perceived that an inferior dog had used it.  The truth is, I simply didn’t want to soil my paws in the puddle at the base of the tree.  After all these years, Dad still didn’t understand dog behavior.  How sad.  But even more sad is that Dad would even dare to deem my behavior comparable to that of a polarizing bigot.

I think he got the message, because he immediately knelt down and told me he was sorry.  “You don’t deserve an insult like that,” he said, “but give me a minute and I’ll think of another which is less demeaning.”  Just when I think he can’t get worse, he always seems to trump himself.

 

Extra-Stench-ialism

As an Aussie, I am inherently kind, loving, personable, affable and – above all – approachable (oh, and did I mention humble?).  Unlike some breeds who have a wary and suspicious gene which cautions anyone in the vicinity to steer clear, Aussies are welcoming and perhaps a little too trusting.  And so…

As I took my daily stroll through the rear yard yesterday, with all the happy conversations with birds, squirrels, lizards and chipmunks which occasion such meanderings, I came upon a strange looking animal.  It was black with a large white stripe running from head to tail.  He looked friendly, so I said “hi”, but he stood there with an unresponsive stare.  Now, I could have shrugged off his aloof attitude and moved on, but I’m an Aussie.  We take unfriendliness as a challenge, so I persisted.  As I moved closer, obviously invading his space, he turned his back to me and discharged a spray of liquid directly at me.  At first, I thought how nice it was for this fellow to cool me off on a warm morning.  But I quickly realized that this was no ordinary spray.  It was the most odious of all possible odors, and with my acute sense of smell it was simply unbearable.  I quickly rolled in the grass, but that did no good.  I raced to the back door of the house to alert Dad of my predicament.

He came to the door, took one whiff of me and somehow knew what had happened.  He said, “Flap, what have you done?”  I said, “Well, I came upon some foul smelling brew in a barrel, so I just jumped inside.”  He ignored the sarcasm, as usual, and said, “Wait here.”  Uh, yeah, where was I going?  After about 20 minutes, he returned wearing a hazmat suit that he keeps in the garage (don’t even ask).  He looked a little like Darth Vader and was breathing like him too.  He lifted me up and carried me inside to a bathtub which he had prepared while I was waiting.  Apparently, he had always heard that bathing in tomato juice would remove the stench with which I was afflicted.  But the closest thing he had in the house to fulfill this specious ‘cure’ was a case of Bloody Mary mix from Costco.  He unceremoniously dumped me in the tub and proceeded to scrub me down.

It didn’t work.  When he was done, I smelled like a skunk who had a few too many.  I shook off Dad’s cure, spraying the entire bathroom with skunky-mary cocktail, then raced through the house trying to rub the odor off on rugs, sofas, lounge chairs and drapes.  Dad of course chased after me, tripped in his awkward suit and went sliding across the wood floor.  Fearing he was hurt, I walked over and licked his face mask.  I still don’t know why this simple act of kindness and concern would illicit his knee-jerk response to reach for my neck with the obvious intent of ending my suffering in an altogether unacceptable manner.

Much later, when Dad discovered that a simple solution of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dishwashing liquid would have been the proper approach, he continued to blame me for rushing him into an erroneous method (yes, blame the victim!).  I’m resting comfortably now while Dad happily cleans the house (I choose to believe he’s happy, despite his endless soliloquy about an evil dog sent to him by an avenging angel for his past transgressions).  But if he continues this torrent of odiferous complaining, I may need to prepare a tub for him.

 

 

Existential Debate

All the signposts along our parallel roads were clearly visible, and they led Dad and me to this contentious point in our relationship.  It germinated in Dad’s mind (and I use the term ‘mind’ in the loosest possible sense), while he was watching the Republican and Democratic debates.  He said, “Flap, I think it’s time that you and I had a debate so that we can settle, once and for all, who is better at logic,  articulation and thinking on our feet – or, in your case, paws.  Dad, as a master of grandiloquence and deluded wisdom, would like nothing better than to upstage his mental superior.  So, being the ever-affable companion, I agreed to this absurd suggestion, and the date was set.

Dad contacted a local affiliate of CNN (Canine News Network), and they agreed to televise the event and provide an objective moderator.  The theme of the debate was existentialism, specifically a discussion of whether we truly exist on this planet or is it all an illusion (as in The Matrix).  There was a large studio audience composed of a wide variety of prospective voters, including various races, ethnicities and dog breeds.  The following is a partial transcript of the proceedings:

MODERATOR:  Good evening and welcome to this historic first debate between a dog and his human companion.  The rules are simple.  There are no rules.  We will rely on your sense of courtesy and decorum to engage in a respectful discussion (this guy had no idea with whom he was dealing).  I’ll start with a question.  Flapjack, you have stated that we must exist because nobody could ever have conceived of an illusion which contained a horrific obscenity like your dad.  Do you have any evidentiary support for this premise?

FLAPJACK:  Thank you.  First I would like to thank CNN and all the viewers for giving us the opportunity..

DAD:  You are a blatant liar!

MODERATOR:  Dad, please restrain yourself.  Flapjack has not yet began to answer the question.

FLAPJACK:  Thanks.  If our existence was nothing more than thoughts implanted by some higher intelligence, how would one explain all the random chaos and suffering in the world, such as the agony of living with Dad?

DAD:  If you were something other than the dog-dolt that you are, you would understand that chaos and suffering would necessarily be part of the illusion.  Did that ever occur to you, imbecile?

FLAPJACK:  If that premise was something more than the fallacious rambling of a proven lunatic, then yes, it might have occurred to me.  In fact, you are tangible proof of reality gone terribly wrong.

DAD:  And you are proof that nightmares can seem so incredibly real.

MODERATOR:  Gentlemen..um..gentleman and gentle dog, we rely on you both to remain on point and refrain from personal attacks.  Now, Dad, next question.  If our existence is an illusion, do you believe we can control situations in what we think are our lives?

DAD:  Oh, how I’ve tried.  My esteemed opponent is virtually impossible to live with, much less control.  I believe our mind-manipulators purposely throw abominations at us for their own entertainment, and render it impossible for us to merely will those things away.  My God, given the power, I would have willed this loquacious leg-lifter out of my life years ago.  But, here he stands, with that smirk on his face, and that pompous posturing…man, I’d like to just walk over there and…

FLAPJACK:  I’d like to exercise my right of rebuttal.  I believe..

DAD:  Right of rebuttal?  I’ll show you a little rebuttal when we get home.

FLAPJACK:  Yeah?  Well, bring it on, Dream Boy..

At this point, Dad lunged at me, to the collective gasp of the studio audience.  We fell to the ground, his hands around my throat and my paws in his face.  The moderator walked away in despair and the network cut to a commercial.  Moments later, the police took Dad away on animal abuse charges (seems that there were more than a few witnesses).  I wonder if a jail cell feels like an illusion?  This never should have happened.  He never should have proposed this stupid event.  And I never should have taken ‘de-bait’.

Post Valentine’s Post

It was the best Valentine’s Day ever.

While Mom and Dad were exchanging hearts and flowers, I was roaming my yard, communing with the birds and squirrels in the bright sunshine.  I don’t roam like I used to.  In fact, I don’t do much of anything the way I used to.  While the years have not had a negative effect on my fun-loving spirit, they have inflicted several painful shots to the physical aspect of my existence.  So, I move slowly, unsteadily, enjoying all the moments left to this seasoned ole Aussie.

Mom and Dad gave me a new toy and I showed my characteristic appreciation, but I really wasn’t up to playing with it, so I dropped it and laid down to rest.  Later, Mom picked up the new toy and beckoned me back out to the yard.  She threw the toy and I made the obligatory jog to retrieve it.  On the second throw, one of my legs refused to cooperate and I went down in a heap.  I was stunned, and so I just stayed there for a moment to get my bearings.

Then Mom was with me, cradling me in her arms.  “It’s OK, my sweet, sweet boy,” she said, and I felt a tear fall from her eye to my nose.  I nuzzled her.  In that moment, her love was more important to me than any new toy could ever be.  For awhile, I didn’t feel any pain, just a warm glow.

It was the best Valentine’s Day ever.

Super Bowl Springtime?

The sunny days and warm temperatures in California have faked Mom and Dad into believing that springtime is upon us.  Faking them out takes surprisingly little effort, as readers of this blog are well aware.  So, this ersatz spring has caused them to spring into action with their annual housecleaning and inventory of required projects, while I am still justifiably lying around in my wintery soporific stupor.

Yesterday, as part of our annual household updating, our new toilets were delivered.  Dad wanted to have these ‘super bowls’ in time for todays Superbowl.  Why?  I long ago gave up trying to figure out how his mind – or what passes as a mind – functions.  He is a conundrum wrapped inside a puzzle wrapped in two strips of bacon..mmm, bacon..but I digress.

The toilets are a technological marvel.  Each has so many bells and whistles, it would take a NASA engineer to figure them out.  They come equipped with seat warmers, bidet, surround sound systems, seat belts, butt-vibration and various fragrance emitters.  So, you can imagine my inept dad at the controls.  The first sign of trouble was what sounded like a world-class waterfall in the bathroom, followed by Dad’s familiar blood curdling screams (which my sensitive ears could hear over the toilet speakers blaring Cat Stevens singing “I Can’t Keep It In”).

Obviously, Dad hadn’t realized that the bidet came with various levels of pressure.  The factory setting was at the highest level (the one they call “Fire Hose”).  So, when Dad sat down (naturally forgetting to engage his seat belt) and engaged the bidet, he was literally blown three feet in the air.  The bidet’s auto-shut off kicked in, and Dad was unceremoniously dropped with great force back to the seat (I can’t believe they didn’t provide a parachute).  He was so stunned that he couldn’t move, which was unfortunate because he had inadvertently adjusted the seat warmer to the “feel the burn” setting.

Things have calmed down now.  The plumber and the paramedics have left the house, and Dad is settling down to watch the Broncos and Panthers.  Of course, his burned and bruised derriere prevents him from watching in a sitting position.  But the pain has not inhibited his Superbowl appetite, and he’s eating like there’s no tomorrow.  And you know what that means…a trip very soon to the other super bowl.  This will be a halftime show I don’t want to miss.  Ah, the joys of false springtime.