Picnics Day



I’m running between events.  I just did my shift at the All School Picnic running the putt-putt booth.  It is either the second or third year that has been my assigned job which with the hundred or so different volunteer opportunities I am not sure how I always get Putt-Putt.  Perhaps it is because I seem to have no trouble keeping small innocent children lined up quietly while one kid gets three tries to hit the wiffle ball into the cup.


It sounds like an easy job, and it is until you really look at a despondent five year old’s face who has missed all three times and they think their world has ended.  Well, that is where the bucket of five million tootsie rolls comes in.  Everybody is a winner.  Three shots, no ball in the cup wins you one, three shots and you finally get the ball in on the third shot gets you two and if you get a hole in one you get three.  These are not the published rules of the game, just my interpretation of what a carnival is all about.  That and I had five million Tootsie rolls, what are we saving them for?


I would have liked to stay and visit with the young school parents but I had to run home to get ready for my neighbor Mary’s moving party.  Mary is our neighborhood dog sitter and all the dog parents are in mourning over her moving.  She will eventually move to a house not too far away, but not three doors down as she has been.


I have not broken the news to Shay Shay who sees going to Mary’s as her own personal All School Picnic.  On any given weekend Mary might have five or six neighborhood pooches staying with her.  They all seem to love it.  I know that Shay does because when we go out for our regular walk she pulls me to Mary’s house and stands at her door looking in her side light window for her friends.  I think Mary must have her own version of the giant bucket of doggie tootsie rolls because she has never met a dog that did not love her.


So off to the next picnic — A little saner with no carnival games or bouncy castles.  I think we should have hired a clown to make balloon animals because all the guests are going to be sad that Mary is moving, much more sad than a five year old who missed three shots in putt putt and didn’t get a tootsie roll.

Do Dogs Feel Guilt?



Is guilt a purely human emotion or do dogs feel it too?  As I sit in the sunroom this afternoon watching college football and needle pointing a long list of chores I should be doing before this runs through my head; the mail is stacked up in various piles around the house, laundry goes unfolded in the dryer, the garage has collected a number of items that belong other places — Nothing life threatening, but nothing so exciting that I want to jump up and work on them.


Shay Shay snuggles happily on top of Russ who is working away on his I-pad.  Russ never stops working since keeping up with all the news in the world can be classified as research for his job.  He does not while away his time on his I-pad playing games like his wife.


I have some guilt about being lazy.  I have some guilt about putting real half and half in my coffee just now, I have some guilt that sitting is not exercise and that I have been a little too sedentary lately.  Is this guilt changing my actions?  Not really.  Will it eventually get me to be more productive?  Maybe.


As Shay sighs her sound of contentment I wonder if she feels guilty about anything?  When she snuggles on Russ making him stay in one place so as not to disturb her is she guilty about that?  When she steels a paper towel off the coffee table and shreds it up into feather like bits, leaving it in a pile on the guest room floor is she ashamed?  If she quietly grabs a strip of bacon off Carter’s plate and swallows it down uninvited is she regretful.  No, no and no on all counts.


Now if Shay gets caught doing anyone of these things and gets scolded I think she feels shame, but maybe for just a few moments.  Not enough time for guilt to come into play.  I certainly think she does not walk around muttering, “I really should not have eaten that biscuit.”


Is guilt a good thing?  Does it drive us to the best behaviors or does it just make us feel bad about our natural instinct?  I know I don’t want to get scolded by anyone and since I am more or less an autonomous adult there is no one really watching my every move and grading me on it. Guilt must be my own personal grading system, but is it enough to get me to be on my best behavior all the time?  I wonder who is more evolved, dogs who live happily without guilt or humans who use guilt as a tool for self-moderation, just not that successfully?

Kitchen Invisible Fence



There are a lot of dogs that live in my neighborhood.  Most of them make me happy.  Some live in houses with invisible fences around their yard so they can joyfully remain outdoors while sticking to their property.  I have one neighbor who’s dogs never cross their invisible fence, but the ferocious barking they do when you walk by does give one pause to worry.  When my sweet Shay Shay and I venture past their house I call it running the gauntlet.


Now there is little reason that these two dogs, which appear to hate us for being in the vicinity of their house, should obey their invisible fence, other than the small shock they will take, but they do.  As I was walking past the other day with dogs barring their teeth to me and Shay shivering in fear I thought, “Boy, I need an invisible fence.”   Not for Shay and our yard, but for me in my kitchen.


I think that the same technology that keeps these protective guard dogs in their yard could be utilized to keep me away from naughty foods in my kitchen.  I could wire up a carb and calorie loaded zone with all the foods that are temptations to me and snap on the zapping collar.  Anytime I tried to cross into the “danger zone” I would take a big shock.


Not only would I steer clear of that area I’m sure I would develop an aversion to those foods other places than just in my kitchen.  Now I might take on a few disturbing ticks or twitches.  Dunkin’ Donut ads might send me into seizures, but hell it might be worth it.  Maybe I will be able to not only lose those last twenty pounds I have literally holding tight onto me, but keeping them off would be dramatically easier.


If this Kitchen Invisible Fence works for me I could wire up other people’s homes.  I will have to create a refrigerator zone as well as a pantry area, but I see this as a doable project.  If you see me out in public and I seem a little skittish and have some unsightly red marks on my neck it probably means I was tempted by a vanilla scone in the forbidden zone.

What Is It With Dogs and Package Delivery?


Long before George Bush the Younger created the Department of Homeland Security it existed in homes around the world where dogs lived.  I was on the phone with my friend Lynn today discussing important matters such as the last episode of The Bachelorette, when suddenly her sweet Wheaton Terrier, Millie went wild and crazy barking as if Freddie Kruger had broken into their house and was hacking Lynn to bits.


As the normally sweet and docile Mille was ferociously barking three rooms away from Lynn I asked if I needed to call 911.  Lynn screamed at Millie in that “Shut up, your mother is on the phone,” voice and sweetly came back to me and said, “No worries honey, it’s just the Fed-Ex man.”


My darling and none-too-vicious dog Shay Shay also staunchly guards our house from any potential offending package deliverers.  Yesterday in all her been-shaved-too-close-skinniness she stood her ground against the UPS man who threateningly held the box containing the menacing Texas Instrument TI-84 calculator Carter needed for math class.  I don’t know if Shay Shay thought he might compute us to death, but to her it was her duty to prevent that man from giving us that very very bad package.


When I was in college I had a sweet mixed terrier mutt named Beau.  Beau weighed about twenty pounds and never met a stranger, except for our Mailman. I lived off campus in a row house that had a mail slot in the front door.  Beau would sit perched on the back of an arm chair in the front window, looking more like a cat than some trained attack dog.  As soon as the postman stepped up on our front porch Beau would jump down and stand barking and growling at him, ripping each piece of mail from his hand as he pushed it through the mail slot.


Neither my dog’s nor Lynn’s acts this way when a different stranger comes to the house.  Shay has never turned into some Cujo-type dog when the Jehovah’s Witness people come and stand patiently at my front door.  Many a teen-ager selling magazines has rung the bell over and over again and Shay is not half as concerned about them as I wish she would be.  At first I wondered about the uniform, but the Gasman has not been met with the I-am-sure-you-are-evil greeting that a person with a package has.


Let this be a tip to all you conspiracy theorist that are sure anthrax is being sent to you.  Get a dog.  It is your own personal homeland security department.  Not only can you prevent dangerous packages from entering but you will be well loved locked safely in your home.

Dogs Not Drinks

In the category, “What are politicians thinking?” I am happy to see that we Americans are not alone in this world.  This morning I was listening to BBC radio and an Irish Councilman was being interviewed because his district is considering giving out permits to certain citizens to drive drunk.  That’s right, people can apply to have their legal blood alcohol limit raised.


I was dumbfounded about why a government would do this and even more so when the Councilman explained their reasoning for considering this change in their law.  Apparently there have been a lot of suicides among the lonely single rural Irishmen and a councilor feels like when the drunk driving laws were not so strict these lonely people would spend more time down in their local pub surrounded by friends and fellow drinkers.


The politician went on to say that only people who lived on country roads where there was not much traffic would probably be approved for these “Go on and get drunk” driving permits.  I wonder if they would have to prove that they were suicidal first before they would qualify.  Would killing someone else while they were drunk driving perhaps cause them to be more suicidal?


I understand that suicide is a real problem, and loneliness may be increasing in our ever more isolated society, but encouraging people to drive drunk does not seem to be the answer.  In fact, encouraging depressed people to drink is probably wrong to begin with.


I file this under, “Solving one problem by creating another.”  Granted suicides may be up in Ireland, but it might not just be due to the fact that people are lonelier because they are afraid to go to their local and have a pint for fear of being arrested.  The economy is not so great in that part of the world.  That could be adding to the stress people are feeling.  Should their government raise the drunk driving level for every point the GDP goes down?


I have a different solution for the lonely and potentially suicidal Irish people.  Instead of encouraging drinking which not only causes problems with driving, but with waistlines and general health, promote dog ownership.  Dogs are the best companions, they love you unconditionally and give their masters a good reason to get up in the morning and stick around.  Walking a dog gives you more endorphins than downing a beer and lager never loved you back like your best canine companion.