Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Monday, September 29, 2008

We finally laid my husband Rollyn's ashes to rest. Rollyn passed away nearly 20 years ago, in Australia. He'd always said he wanted to be cremated, but afterwards, I didn't know what to do with the ashes. I knew he didn't want me to leave him in Australia, so when I returned to America the ashes came with me. But I still didn't know what to do with them. I moved from Sunny Isles to Aventura to Tucson, and so did the ashes. Buy an urn, people said. But he wouldn't have liked an urn, and I really needed to get this final thing right.

The first time I came here to Puerto Penasco and stood on the balcony looking out at the sea I thought, Rollyn would have loved this! And I knew what to do. But I had to wait until the tides were right, so that I could get out to the deep water beyond the second reef.

This morning at low tide, the second reef was completely exposed.

Bao and I went all the way down the beach, further than we've ever gone, past the first reef and through the tidal pools and out onto the second reef. And at the furthest end of the reef, I poured the ashes into the sea and said, I love you.

Just then, the tide turned. And by the time we got back, the place where we'd stood on the reef was already under water.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"But what about animal rights?" I asked at the end of last night's debate between Barack Obama and JoHN McCain.

Everyone else in the room jumped on me.

Didn't I realise that we were facing the worst economic crisis since The Depression? Couldn't I understand that there were more important things than animals and their putative rights?

No, I couldn't. I can't. I don't. We are all animals. The economy isn't an animal, but you and I definitely are. (Unless you're a vegetable, or a mineral, in which case I'm wondering how you can read this) We are the economy. We are all in this together. But it wasn't the four-legged animals who caused this economic melt-down. It was the two-legged ones, the human animals.

I'll bet you all the money in the world that not a single one of the smarmy, smart-ass wheelers and dealers who profited from this financial fiasco owns a dog. You have to care for a dog, feed it, take it for walks. These people don't have time to care about anybody or anything except themselves and their golden parachutes. Maybe their kids have dogs, but I'll bet they don't know the dogs' names. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them don't even know their kids' names. Or how many houses they own, but that's another story.

How we treat animals is important. People who abuse animals abuse humans. People who don't care about animals often don't care about people, either. I want a President who cares about animals. John McCain seems indifferent. Sarah Palin shoots wolves from a helicopter. The ASPCA backs Barack Obama. I know where my vote is going.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Omigod! Is that the same dog?"

She'd brought her puppy in for grooming when I brought Bao, and we'd commiserated about burrs, brambles and the desert. Two hours later, Bao and I were just leaving when she arrived to pick up her baby.

Amazing what Ginny and Amber (our groomers) can accomplish in two hours. Clipping, shampooing and a revitalizing creme rinse make all the difference. Bao pranced and preened. He knew he looked good again. Bao likes looking good.

Afterwards, we came home and watched the stock market fall. The current economic scenario is scary, even though I have no stock. Instead of giving $700 billion to the Wall Street players who got us into this mess, Bao thinks the government should lend it to the people whose mortgages are being foreclosed, so they can continue making their payments, stay in their houses -- and keep their dogs.

Apparently, lots of people are having to give up beloved family dogs because they can no longer afford to feed them, or because they've lost their homes and their new landlords won't accept pets. That is just so mean. We're all Americans, and we're all in this together. You'd think in such difficult times, people lucky enough to still have property to rent would be willing to cut less fortunate folk a little slack.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What a mess!

While we were out yesterday, Bao somehow wandered into a tangle of the most awful stuff I've ever seen. He was on a leash, sniffing happily at things and then suddenly he let out a little whimper and sat down.

He was covered with lumps of fur. It was amazing. It happened so fast. At the center of each lump of fur was this little, pale green thing the size of a bean that somehow congealed all of the fur around it into an impenetrable ball. A burr? Some kind of cactus? They were prickly, but I think they also exuded some kind of sap. Ah, the joys of the Arizona desert!

There was no combing this stuff out. I had to cut it out, carefully, bean by bean. It was so bad I had to literally scissor Bao out of his harness, if you can imagine that. And some of these things were in delicate areas. He had one on his upper lip right beneath his nose (you can see it in the photo) but none in his beautiful ears, thank goodness! Or in his tail.

Luckily, we're going to grooming today.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

We think dogs can't talk. But I think we're wrong, and here's why.

Besides barking, dogs make all sorts of sounds. Some of them -- like barks, whines and yelps -- we understand. But Bao has an entire repertoire of gurgles, trills and mumbles, many of them polysyllabic. For example, when I come home from shopping he's delighted and says something that sounds like, Brow-gru-grum-grumber-brow-brow-brummer.

Talking is using sound to communicate.We teach children to talk by talking to them. They learn by imitating us. We talk to our dogs, too. But they can't imitate us because they can't make the same sounds we make. They may understand, but they can't reply. How frustrating!

Where human beings are concerned, there'ssupposedly a window of opportunity for language learning. Leave it too late, and the child never learns to speak. Maybe it's the same for dogs. Maybe they've got to learn while they're puppies.

But suppose someone made sounds to a puppy that the puppy could imitate? And then linked those sounds to concrete ideas like toys and water and walks. Mightn't the puppy learn how to "ask" for a toy, or a drink of water?

Any takers?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On the eve of the Republican convention, Bao and I waited all night for the telephone call that never came.

Somehow, Bao had got it into his mind that John McCain would choose him for Vice President. I told him he was being silly. John McCain doesn't even like dogs. Also, I told him, I don't think Americans are ready to elect a dog as Vice President. After all, I explained, the Vice President is a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Like Dick Cheney.

Bao remained optimistic right to the end. It's his nature to be optimistic. He's a Shih Tzu.

Besides, Americans are ready for a change. Barack Obama says so. And a Shih Tzu Vice President would certainly represent a change.

For a start, we'd upstage the Swiss. That's gotta be worth something.

And would it really be so bad? Sitting for an hour or so with Bao each day might do our next President some good. To spend an hour each morning staring into those big, brown eyes that seek and give nothing except unconditional love would be like starting each day with a meditation. Better than jogging, and less strenuous. Meditating doesn't give you shin splints.

Moreover, Bao's reputation is spotless, impeccable. He doesn't shoot wolves from airplanes. He doesn't shoot his fellow hunters. He doesn't shoot things, period. He's never put a foot wrong, and he's got four of them. That's more than you can say for any of the current candidates.

Meanwhile, what do I do with the 50,000 Bao for Vice President T-shirts he ordered?

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Switzerland, animals that belong to "social species" now have been granted rights. Dogs are right there at the top of the list. From now on, the Swiss are going license owners instead of dogs (Bao thinks this is an excellent idea, and so do I) but only after they've passed a 10-part course in the theory and practice of dog ownership.

Fishermen will have to take a course, as well -- there is apparently a humane way to catch fish. This is harder to imagine. A local anesthetic on the hook, maybe?

Pet fish also get preferential treatment. Their tanks cannot be transparent on all sides, and owners must make sure their natural cycle of day and night is maintained. And, no. You can no longer flush your goldfish down the toilet, at least not until it's dead. And if you want to kill it, you've got to use special chemicals which will presumably be available in the "Euthanasia" aisle of your local pet emporium.

The new legislation covers horses, sheep, cows, pigs, goats, guinea pigs, canaries and rhinoceroses.

What I'm wondering is, What about ants, bees and termites, not to mention bats, cockroaches and rats? I'm all for animal rights, but I think they should be extended to all sentient beings (except cockroaches). By specifying "social animals" the Swiss may find they've opened up a big can of worms.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

To nobody's surprise (except mine) I'm still here.

Yeah, I know. It was a tooth, not a quadruple bypass. But the worst thing about irrational terror is that you know it's irrational but you're still terrified. Actually, it was a big nothing. They put a needle in my arm. I remember thinking, This isn't working. I'm still awake. Then I heard the doctor say, I'm done. They sat me in a reclining chair for a while, and then they sent me home with an ice pack and three squares of gauze, and told me I'd been very brave. It's easy to be brave when you're unconscious.

Thank you, everybody who commented. It made me feel loved.

Bao was delighted to see me. I went to bed and slept, and there's nothing Bao likes better than spending the afternoon curled up in bed next to me. They said I should only eat soft things, so we had ice cream for dinner. He loved that, too.

But I'm wondering -- why can't they give dogs twilight sleep, when they clean their teeth? Wouldn't it be safer than a general anesthetic?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Faithful followers of this blog will recall the Sunday I fell on my face in Petaluma. Several stitches in my chin, and a sore knee, but it could have been worse. Turns out, it was. I knocked a molar loose, and it is apparently beyond redemption or repair and now it has to come out. Tomorrow. Under anesthetic. Twilight sleep, they call it. I'm terrified.

I mean, suppose I don't wake up? What happens to Bao? I'm all he has. He's all I have. We're a team. We need each other. We love each other.

His Aunty Char and Uncle Bill will take care of him if the unthinkable happens. So we're not looking at animal shelters and euthanasia and thank God for that. But how will he cope? Dogs grieve, just like people. And you can't explain it, to a dog. You can't say, Your Mommy has gone to Heaven. Or crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Or whatever. Dogs don't understand. All they understand is that you've gone away and you haven't come back. And they don't understand that at all.

Bao knows something is up. He's staying very close. And I'm being silly, I know. It'll be okay.

But thank you for letting me share.