History Quiz

You may have seen the video wherein college students were asked some fairly basic questions on U.S. history and responded with startlingly absurd answers.  A few that I remember:  Who won the Civil War?  You mean the one we had with Canada?  Who is our current vice president?  Palin.  When did U.S. troops leave Vietnam?  Leave what?

After recovering from my shock, I had one of my countless brilliant thoughts.  I would canvass the dogs in my neighborhood to ascertain if they were brighter than the dolts questioned in the college survey.  I designed my questions around the subject of canines, to maintain fairness between species.

I began with the French Poodle next door.  How long has your breed been in existence?  The French have been baking bread and croissants since long before Napoleon told the french bakers to bake napoleons.  I didn’t say bread, I said breed.  Why would we bake breed?  Are all Aussies imbeciles?

I quickly departed the land of the looney, and headed to the German Shepherd two doors down.  Who started the German Shepherd breed?  You dumkopf! Everyone knows that the Germans invented all breeds of dogs.  But my understanding is that dogs evolved from wolves, isn’t that correct?  Of course.  First, the Germans invented wolves, then they invented evolution.  So, dogs were essentially invented in the fatherland, even stupid Aussies like you.

This was not going well, so I hurried quickly to the Chihuahua across the street.  The gate was locked, but I could see him through the fence, so I called to him. Could you stand up and walk over here so that I can ask you a few questions?  I AM standing up, Señor Wise Guy.  Oh, sorry..can you tell me how many Chihuahuas were present at the battle of the Alamo?  There was only one..the famous Chipotle Chihuahua.  He infiltrated the Alamo ahead of Santa Anna’s troops, running around from Austin to Crockett to Bowie, offering them burritos which were infected with e coli bacteria.  By the time of the attack, these guys were – pardon the expression – as sick as dogs.  And the rest was history, thanks to one brave little Mexican puppy.

I was truly dismayed at this point.  But I decided to visit one last dog..the collie around the block.  Where did collies get their name?  Well, we originally were put to work guarding cantaloupe fields in the vast farmlands of America.  The work was very tedious and boring, and we began to suffer from various forms of depression, so the farmers called us melon-collies.  It was eventually shortened to collies.  Seriously, you didn’t know that?

I have a new respect for our astute college students.

Critical Mess

If age is just a number and if you should never lose the child (or pup) inside you, then why do some folks expect older dogs to lie around in a stupor waiting for the inevitable?  I, for one, refuse to go gently into that goodnight, which of course means that I will continue to push Mom and Dad to the brink of insanity at every opportunity.

If they are enamored of a particular throw rug, I will see that it gets dragged out the door and into the rear yard for a thorough airing out.  If left alone in the garage, I will dutifully tidy up by rearranging every tool, container, gadget and piece of equipment (especially those that are tagged, “Flap, Do Not Touch”).  They have only to leave the family room to find it “redecorated” upon their return.  And when I take a drink, I try hard to slobber half the water over a 25 foot circumference around my dish.  I could, of course, refrain from doing all of the above and receive the customary “good boy” reward (yawn).  But I prefer to run on the wild side in order to get my companions’ stagnant blood moving around a bit.  It’s good for their health and, therefore I misbehave for their benefit.

So, today I decided to test their limits..to find the tipping point of their patience..to reach critical mass by creating a critical mess.  They left the door between the garage and the house wide open..as if they were inviting me to raise hell.  I didn’t disappoint them.  I managed to drag a 50 pound bag of fertilizer into the house while they were upstairs.  Once I had the bag inside, I opened it and dragged it through the house, spilling its contents in every room of the ground floor.  It was so much fun that I repeated it with two more bags.

Mom and Dad, smelling the distinctive odor of a cattle ranch, came running downstairs to find me smiling, ankle deep in cow dung.  Their reaction was classic.  Dad fell silent, as his body prepared to involuntarily explode.  Mom looked at the mess philosophically.  She calmly said to me, “Flap, my poor baby, you’ve obviously become so senile that you’re confused about what you’re doing.  Now, please help Mom clean this up, and tell me you’ll never do it again.”  Perhaps it was Mom’s cool reaction combined with my outrageous behavior that caused Dad to snap.  I don’t know, I’m just a dog.  Suffice it to say that he is now lying comfortably under heavy sedation.

I visited Dad a few minutes ago.  He was on his bed, drooling and mumbling.  I think he murmured something about me taking years away from his life.  It’s ironic, because I seem to be feeling younger.  Dad just needs to chill.  Now I’m next to Mom with my chin in her lap, and she’s saying “Good boy, Flap”.  I guess Dad heard her because my sensitive ears detected an agonizing scream from his bedroom.  I think I may delay the next round of mischief for…oh…a day or so.


Who’s Better?

It has been years since I last graced this blog with a post, and I’ve received a host of inquiries about this leave of absence.  One curious young lady asked, “Did you die?”  Yes, I did.  But I’m back to tell you about it.  (OK, Mom and Dad have advised me that sarcasm doesn’t become me, but who cares?)  Actually, I took a long sabbatical to advance my study of human behavior (or more accurately, misbehavior).  I consider myself to have a relatively good sense of humor.  That’s a prerequisite to living with my buffoons, er I mean Mom and Dad.  But my findings on humans are sufficiently distressing to take the ‘fun’ out of ‘funny’, leaving me only with ‘ny’ which is meaningless, albeit succinct.

I just returned from Iowa, where I observed what is known as caucus.  I would have preferred going to Arizona to observe what is known as cactus.  Cactus are less injurious than the slings, arrows, barbs and jabs produced by political candidates.  I heard personal attacks from everyone, aimed at everyone else on every conceivable issue, all designed to annihilate one candidate or another.  it was like being backstage at the AKC Best in Show awards.  I was so exhausted this morning, I took three naps instead of my usual two.  It was a good lesson in American politics, and a better one in doing what’s expedient to achieve a goal.  Lies, exaggerations, aberrant conduct, unimaginable butchering of the english language, blatant insults – I used all of them just to get an upgraded room at my Iowa kennel.  But my point is that humans will do and say just about anything if they want something badly enough.  They like to believe they are selfless, kind, altruistic and compassionate.  But give them an opportunity to win an election (or even a caucus), to advance their position in a line of traffic, to beat someone to a bargain, or to make a rival look ridiculous, and the halo quickly disintegrates.  Dogs are so much better.

Having said that, I must be fair.  I have also studied other areas of human conduct.  I have observed bravery in the face of almost certain death, good deeds where no reciprocation was anticipated, and empathy when turning away would have been easier.  I saw firemen rescue a dog who was sinking through cracked ice on a lake, I saw a lady pull an unconscious person from a burning car, and I saw a 12-year old return money to a grocery store clerk after he gave her too much change.  These people were heeding their “better angels” and they tend to have a more lasting impact on me than those less noble.  And yet, dogs are so much better.

I’m going on 14 years of age…that’s about 350 of your years, according to Stephen Hawking (who is the world’s best theoretical physicist, but lousy with human-dog year conversions).  With age has come some degree of wisdom to supplement my vast store of knowledge and experience.  I have come to value the attributes that humans sometimes demonstrate.  I have been fortunate to be able to impart many of these attributes to Mom and Dad..attributes like honesty, dependability, compassion and humility.  Especially humility.  And they have done relatively well.  And yet, as a dog, I am so much better.

On Aging

This may come as a shock to some, but the non-anthropomorphic truth is that dogs are not people.  Some folks treat them like people, expect them to act and react like people, and expect them to age like people.  Such folks are inevitably disappointed, even devastated when reality comes knocking.  I know.  My dad is the personification of devastation because he has chosen to view me as his furry human buddy instead of his canine superior companion.  When my twelfth birthday rolled around recently, and I began to slow down and show various other signs of age, Dad apparently refused to face the reality that I was in my golden years.  So, I sat him down and we had a little chat.  It went something like this:

Flap:  Let’s talk about aging.

Dad:  OK.  I’m somewhat familiar with the Aegean area of the Mediterranean.  What do you want to know?

F:  You really are a moron.

D:  And you’re an idiot.

F:  Why don’t you try listening closely for a change.  I’m getting older, and I can sense that you have stuck your head firmly in the sand, refusing to acknowledge what is in front of your eyes.  I’m twelve now, and that’s not too far away from the finish line for my breed.  Aside from the simple chronology, have you not noticed the signs?

D:  You mean the ones you slapped all over your kennel which say, “Senior Aussie.  Handle With Care?”

F:  Well, yeah.  But I’m also talking about how I don’t run like I used to, how I sleep a lot more, how I don’t hear very well, how I have trouble getting into the car, and how I don’t play as enthusiastically as I once did.

D:  Well, you could just as easily apply those conditions to Mom and me.  It might surprise you to know that we have indeed noticed your signs of aging.  And, yes, we act like we’re ignoring them because we worry for you and because it’s difficult to face where it’s all leading.

F:  Hmm.  Let me clue you into something.  I’m a dog.  As such, I don’t dwell on the past and I don’t worry about the future.  I live in the moment.  And while I’m in the moment, though I may be feeling aches and pains, and though I cannot do things I once was able to do, I do not fear that one day I will pass away.  I wish you didn’t either, but I understand that you and I are hardwired differently, and you can’t help stressing about things over which you have no control.

D:  Fair enough.  But this isn’t just a “thing” like the house needing painting or the car needing repairs.  This issue has emotion attached to it.  And so we worry about your diminishing capacities and about one day losing you.  You’re part of the family, and it’s only natural that we feel this way.  So, while you’re in the moment, give that a bit of thought.

F:  To what end?  I can empathize with your worrisome nature and your fears, but I can never truly understand them, just as you can never really know what it’s like to evolve to my higher form of thinking.

D:  Higher form?  You’re an idiot.

F:  And you’re a moron, but let’s see if we can rise above it all.

D:  OK, what do you suggest that Mom and I do as you continue showing significant signs of aging?

F:  Why not just try to enjoy each others’ company while we still can, and let the chips fall where they will?  You’re fond of   that quote:  “Worry is the dividend paid to disaster before it is due”, so why not adhere to it?  Look, let’s make a deal.  If you stop feeling sad and morose over my old age, I’ll stop feeling sorry for your unbridled stupidity.

D:  Idiot.

F:  Moron.

And that conversation, which will undoubtedly be immortalized as one of the great inter-species philosophical dialogues of all time, brought each of us to a new and happier existential state.  No, not the state of Nevada, but rather a state of acceptance and peace.  And to a realization that aging, whether it occurs in the Mediterranean or closer to home, is not something to fear, but a period to embrace.  Together.




Let’s Hear It For Uruguay

My dad’s baseball obsession can be traced back to when he was 5-years old and playing catch with his father in the backyard.  His dad clocked his slow-reflexed son in the head with a blazing 40 mph throw.  Some kids are motivated by watching big leaguers work their magic on a field of dreams.  My dad was inspired by a black eye and a concussion.  Go figure.

Over the years, Dad’s interests have greatly expanded beyond baseball.  Let’s see, there’s football, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf…you get the picture.  And once every four years, the most popular sport in the world becomes a bit more than a passing interest.  Yes, the World Cup, soccer’s (or futbol’s) crown jewel holds Dad captive as if it had even the most remote bearing on his existence.  And, as usual and customary, Dad is compelled to drag the family into the depths of his obsession.

And so, last Sunday he proclaimed that the World Cup championship match would be held in our backyard.  Dad chalked up the pitch and fitted himself and yours truly with shin guards, long socks, shorts and jerseys.  It was Dad, representing the U.S. team (yes, this was indeed a fantasy), vs. Flapjack, representing team Uruguay.  I can only assume that Dad chose Uruguay as my team because one of that team’s stars, Luis Suarez, was recently banned for 4 months for biting an opposing player.  As biting people is typically a dog thing, Dad apparently thought that Uruguay was a nice fit for me.  Mom was designated as the referee, and the game was afoot (so to speak).

Thirty-seven seconds into the first half, Mom slapped Dad with a yellow card because she didn’t like his attitude.  While this was happening, I quietly worked the ball into Dad’s goal, then did a victory lap around the field.  Mom allowed the goal to stand because she “thought it was cute.”  Dad was incensed.  He tackled me and we rolled across the pitch.  I was really into my role as a Uruguayan outcast, so I bit Dad on the shoulder.  He screamed at Mom to eject me from the game, but Mom red-carded him for yelling at her.  The game abruptly ended.  Uruguay one, U.S. nil.  Dad immediately  appealed to FIFA and then sequestered himself in his room in a dazzling display of dignity and good sportsmanship.

Mom and I sat in the living room like ESPN analysts and recapped the game.  She said, “Flap, what do you make of Dad’s behavior on the field today?  Do you think he went a bit overboard?”  To say that Dad goes a “bit” overboard is like similarly describing a Titanic victim.  I said, “Well, it’s difficult to understand emotional shipwrecks.  Perhaps it was something in his childhood.  I hear he suffered a concussion…”

The Bridge Takes Its Toll

When I’m a backseat passenger in a car driven by my dad, I typically place my front paws over my ears.  Between his blaring music (if one can classify what he listens to as music), and his endless tirade at anything that slows or impedes his progress, the cacophony is mind-numbing.

A few days ago, we were approaching the westbound entrance to the Oakland Bay Bridge.  As traffic came to a standstill, Dad’s incessant grousing became louder and more liberally peppered with the most colorful language.  My paws simply were not equipped to muffle the onslaught.  Here is a sample of what my ears endured:

Look at this ****!!  And, you know what, Flap?  All the millions they’ve spent on this piece of ****, and they still **** it up. Caltrans contracted with a Chinese firm which has never built a bridge.  Then, Caltrans officials visited China on many occasions during the process and stayed at lavish hotels.  Where did they get the money to pay their expenses?  From the **** bridge tolls they’re charging all these vehicles.  So, yeah, let’s just wait in this **** line for another hour to two so we can have the honor of paying four dollars to help subsidize another boondoggle.  Then, with all the defective bolts and cracks in the concrete, we’ll be lucky if we don’t plunge to our deaths.

And, as we came closer to the toll booth, it just got worse:

Look at that **** toll guy up there!  Could he be any **** slower?  What does it take to receive a five dollar bill and give one dollar in change…is he giving an oral history of the bridge to every driver?  This is **** outrageous!!  Where do they train these guys, at a Tai Chi academy?

What happened next, you might place squarely in the category of “karma.”  It was finally Dad’s turn to pull up to the booth.  As he screamed, “It’s about **** time”, he thrusted his left hand containing four-one dollar bills at the toll-taker.  Only one problem:  Dad forgot to roll down his window.  Dad’s hand hit the glass with a loud thud, Dad screamed in pain, and the bills went flying throughout the car.  One of them landed by my nose.  It smelled a bit like a rack of lamb, so I ate it.  It only took Dad three minutes to locate the other three bills, and as he furiously searched for the fourth, the long line of cars behind us began a chorus of honking.  I heard one driver yell, “Some **** people are just born stupid.”

Well, suffice it to say that Dad finally found another dollar and we continued on our less than merry way.  Dad said, “Flap, would it have killed you to help me find the money back there?  I thought Aussies were supposed to be empathetic and helpful…look at you, just lying there.”  I guess he’s right.  I should have immediately formed a search party.  Oh well, with the rack of lamb still lingering on my taste buds, I guess it was my own karma that I get lambasted.

Later that day, on our return trip, we approached the Benicia Bridge.  I stretched my paw up front and inconspicuously rolled down Dad’s window.  I’m sure he would have remembered.  Oh yeah.


Don’t Pout About Drought

California is as dry as my moisture-less humor, as parched as parchment, as arid as Mojave sands on a relentlessly blazing summer…well, suffice it to say that we’re in a drought.  Now, this state has seen many droughts in its recorded history, but this is one of the worst.  And, when times get tough, people rise to the occasion and demonstrate the singular characteristic which has allowed humankind to perpetuate itself:  Survival of the fittest.  Charles Darwin, who was well schooled by his Australian Shepherd, opined that only the thirstiest will survive a drought, because they will resort to any means to obtain water.  When you consider that animals are mostly water (except Dad, who is mostly a desiccated composite of tissue and gooey stuff which science has yet to identify), you can understand the need to kill thy neighbor in order to drink thy fill.

And so it was that I discovered a tiny irrigation line running from my water dish, under the fence, to our neighbor’s yard.  This explained why my water supply had been evaporating at an alarming rate.  I confronted the culprit, an Irish Wolfhound named Seamus who has a legendary thirst and a talent for installing drip irrigation materials.  At first, he denied syphoning my water.  Then, when I brought my considerable legal acumen to bear, he became defensive.  So, employing my superior agility, I wrapped the irrigation line around his neck until he agreed to leave my water alone.

When I explained the Seamus situation to Dad, he was patronizingly complimentary.  He began blabbing about California water rights, the imposition of water use restrictions and the like, and said that my resolution with Seamus, while effective, was a very simplistic and violent solution to a larger, more complex set of problems.  Such problems, he said, must be addressed by learned individuals acting patiently, reasonably and respectfully with one another.  I listened.  Then I “accidentally” knocked over my indoor water dish so I could witness first hand my learned companion as he patiently, reasonably and respectfully cleaned up the mess.

Later in the day, after a homeowners’  association official (aka water police) witnessed me lifting my leg over a plant in the front yard, he cited my dad.  You see, we can only water grass and plants two days a week, and my irrigation activity did not occur on one of those two prescribed days.  Dad was furious.  I tried to calm him down by quietly explaining about California water rights, restrictions, etc.  You can probably guess how that went.

Now, I’m in my dog house, staring out at a waterless yard and thinking about my joyless dad.  I guess there are many kinds of droughts.