I laugh when people tell me about dogs that wake them up at 5 a.m. This is what I find every morning around quarter to 11.
I laugh when people tell me about dogs that wake them up at 5 a.m. This is what I find every morning around quarter to 11.
I was just ticketed for walking Charlie Ashmont in Boston without a muzzle, violating Boston's asinine Pit Bull ordinance. On the $100 citation, I am referred to as "suspect." I was standing at the corner of Dorchester Ave and Ashmont, waiting for the light to change, Charlie sitting quietly at my side. Cop said he would be taking the dog, but there was no one at Animal Control right now to come get him. Can you imagine if they took him? My poor dog with his three chronic conditions requiring 12 pills a day, who spent 5 days last month hospitalized at Angell? So, we will be driving to Milton or Quincy twice a day now to walk. And if you asked me right this minute, I’d say we might also start looking for a house outside of the city limits. How messed up would that be? I'm not exactly shy about volunteering lots of time to make Dorchester, where I was born, a better place to live. Not sure why I bother some days. He's always on leash outside and always within my control, and I’m not making him wear a muzzle.
For the record, I do not dispute that I was in violation of the current Boston Pit Bull Ordinance, and I will be paying the fine. I am merely expressing an opinion about the unfairness, vagueness and ineffectiveness of the 6-year-old ordinance.
A seasonal greeting from Charlie Ashmont, who, with that neckerchief and shaved paw (and belly, which you can’t really see) looks like a refugee who should try out for House of Pain.
Charlie Ashmont spent most of the weekend in the critical care unit at Angell Memorial. He’s home now, and fine – almost his old self, though still a little drunk on pain meds. In other words, he’s even funnier than usual.
Late last week, as the weather forecasters were promising a warm and sunny weekend, Charlie and I were planning a Blue Hills hike and some other great activities. But on Friday afternoon, after a walk and a rawhide treat, Charlie started to get sick. He was pacing around the house, as he does when he doesn’t feel well. When he threw up a little, I was relieved, thinking it would make him feel better, and it seemed to. But he was still unsettled into the night, and I decided to change my plans to go out. He didn’t want to eat dinner, which is highly unusual. We spent a quiet evening, and I fell asleep, until he woke me by pacing at about midnight, and then threw up again – this time a lot. I probably should have taken him to the emergency room then, but I always struggle with the balance between crazy dog lady and calm, reasonable dog owner, and I erred on the side of the latter. I went back to sleep and woke up early as usual. Charlie was asleep, but he never gets up when I do. A couple of hours later, when I jiggled my keys, which always works to wake him, he looked up, but didn’t stir. It was 6:30 a.m., and time to go to the emergency room. We’re lucky to have a 24 hour animal emergency room just a ten minute drive away.
He had a fever of 104, and was obviously in distress, with a swollen belly. We talked about his chronic but managed illnesses – symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy and hypothyroidism. They admitted him, after talking to me about a bunch of things it could be, without having any idea what it could be. It’s not their fault, but I can’t even talk about how distressing it is to be asked about DNR status for your dog, who was completely himself less than 24 hours earlier. Red means no resuscitation if there’s cardiac arrest. Yellow means you can do chest compressions and intubate if indicated. Green means you can crack his chest open, because in larger dogs, it’s often difficult to do chest compressions. I chose yellow. They told me the doctor would call me after he’d had some tests, and that I could come back and visit during visiting hours from 6-7 p.m.
A doctor called just three hours after I left Charlie’s sad, confused little face being pulled into the hospital. She said they had done an x-ray or an ultrasound - I can't remember, and could see something stuck in his intestines – probably a piece of rawhide. It was making him very sick, and the danger was perforation. Her advice was to monitor closely for signs of perforation – which would make him MUCH sicker, hoping it would resolve itself. At home, I threw away all the rawhide. He has enjoyed rawhide a few times a week for the past six years, and with teeth like his, one would assume that everything gets properly chewed. However, a simple internet search on the words “rawhide,” “dogs” and “danger” reveals hundreds of hits. It’s not like I have regular access to the internet as well as an extensive education and an advanced degree, so it’s understandable that I missed this. Seriously, with all the research I’ve done about dog food, how the fuck did I miss this? Anyway, I have now thrown away a bag of rawhide chews that ended up costing me a quiet weekend and a couple thousand dollars.
I went to visit at 6 p.m. yesterday, and he was happy to see me, though he was obviously anxious. My 80-lb. dog looked so tiny in that cage, scared, with I.V. tubes stuck into his paw. The vet came in and said that his fever was gone, but his belly was still swollen, so he was still a bit uncomfortable. She wanted to monitor him overnight, and try to feed him in the morning. I brought a mat from home, and put it in his cage, because his trainer said that things that smell like home are comforting to dogs. I sat in the cage with him and he settled right down, falling asleep on my leg. When I had to leave at the end of visiting hours, he seemed too tired to really protest. The most unnerving thing about that place is the other animals crying all around.
I spent a night alone worrying in my giant house, which seems a lot less overwhelmingly huge when Charlie is here.
The doctor called early Sunday morning and said that he was much better. He ate something, and kept it down, and the swelling in his belly is gone. It would seem that he has passed whatever was in there.
I am very grateful to live close to a facility like Angell, and the care Charlie has received there over the years has been great. However, I am greatly troubled by one thing. Payment is required before the animal is treated. I do understand that they’re a business, and that their financial policies have probably been developed over the years based on past experiences. I have the money, and didn’t even hesitate to plunk down a credit card, after being given an estimate range between $1800 and $3600. (Charlie even has pet insurance, and this will no doubt be the subject of another blog post, when, if past experience is any indication, they reject most of his claim.) But what happens to people who have to make these decisions based on what they can afford? I know what kind of distress I was in, and can’t imagine how I would have felt if I couldn’t let the caregivers know that the only consideration is Charlie’s care and comfort.
About seven years ago, before I got Charlie, I was with a friend, walking his dog, when the dog had a seizure. We quickly got to Angell, thanks to a man driving by who picked us up, but it was obvious (to me, not to my friend) that the dog had brain damage and wasn’t going to make it. The admissions person at Angell told us we had to talk to the finance person before the dog could be treated. My friend, distraught, didn’t even hear what she was saying. I knew he had no money or credit, and I told him to stay with the dog, while I dealt with the paperwork. I gave them a credit card, and told them the dog could have whatever treatment her owner wanted. The dog died, and to this day, my friend doesn’t even know that I paid a $600 bill from Angell. All he knows is that everything that reasonably could have been done to help his dog was done. That’s all anyone should ever have to know.
Anyway, Charlie is home now, pushing the envelope by sleeping soundly in my spot on the couch. I’m going to let him stay there, just this once. It’s no discipline day here at Charlie’s house. Tomorrow, hopefully, things return to normal.
Thanks to Andrea Kremer for creating what she imagines to be my tattoo.
Because I am a boorish American, I did not realize that this review of Pernice's Barcelona show from Time Out Barcelona, which I posted for all of my virtual friends to see, was in Catalan, not Spanish. That did not change the fact that I didn't know what it said. However, Pernice sister Susan, genius that she is, used a translating tool, and here is the review, translated.
I Can Hear Music: His Amazing Glow
translated from Catalan to English by a free internet translation tool
The concerts and solo acoustic artists who usually records his songs with band never attracted me too, but go, the rule has its exceptions. In the same way that I wrote that I was excited for the concert alone in Faraday Neil Hannon, I liked the direct Joe Pernice Friday  under the Caprices of Apollo, a concert in an intimate and delicious Why Pernice, armed only with his guitar, was to show sympathy and talent in abundance. The truth is that he has a beautiful voice,
acoustic and it was especially evident.
Working on figuring out how to get this off my iPhone as an MP3 - anyone know how?
Pernice voicemail: "Joyce, it’s Joe. I’m at the Children’s Museum. I was wondering if you have time, if you could come down here and pick me up and take me to the Plaza? Or if you just want to go down the Plaza for me, go to Macy’s, I need a six pack of men’s boxer briefs, medium, Jockey or Calvin Klein. There’s a special sale. I need a six pack. Thanks. Just let me know which one you want to do. Alright, bye."
Charlie Ashmont wishes everyone a Merry Christmas. His own Christmas wishes this year include a home for every animal that needs one, an end to breed specific legislation in Boston and elsewhere, and the restoration of his dignity. He thinks that last one will prove most elusive.
Boy sent home for drawing dead Jesus on the cross:
STORY UPDATED 12/16/09
Starting to sound like this kid's father needs to be throttled. I'm grateful that my mother was a LOT smarter than he appears to be.
This story, about a 2nd grader sent home from school after he was asked to make a Christmas drawing and drew a picture of a dead Jesus on a cross, reminds me of an episode from my childhood. I will preface this by saying that reporting around the recent incident seems to be all over the place, but initial reports seemed positioned to elicit a response from readers about the over application of political correctness – an issue that seems to burn up news media comment boards like no other. War on Christmas indeed. It's becoming clear there’s a lot more to the story than what’s being reported, and would argue that it probably shouldn’t be a news story at all.
His is quite a bit different from my story, though I imagine the boy is as bewildered by his experience as I was by mine. I understand how this little boy could get his Jesus stories mixed up. I sympathize, since to this day, I get confused about Jesus and holidays myself. For instance, I can’t remember if I am not supposed to stare directly at the sun during a solar eclipse, or between noon and 3 p.m. on Good Friday. Similarly, I sometimes can’t recall whether it’s Jesus’ or the groundhog’s shadow that predicts six more weeks of winter. So, this poor kid just got his Jesus stories mixed up. No big deal if you ask me.
One day, when I was in first grade, it was discovered that someone wrote “FUCK” in bright orange crayon, in a Dick and Jane reader that belonged to the school. The first grade teacher was a young nun with red hair, who stood, as it turns out, just over five feet tall. I have, somewhere in my house, a picture I drew as a child, of her teaching a class. If the picture was drawn to scale, and the children in the drawing normal-sized, then she would have been about 8’ 9”. Also, her hair was on fire, and her eyes looked as though they could shoot lasers. Though I could easily bench press her now, the mere thought that she may be alive and might read this and be cross with me almost gives me pause. She still induces terror.
On that day, Sister asked us to take out a piece of paper and our pencils. The way I remember it, she showed us the book with the bright orange FUCK, and asked us to write down what that word meant. As my classmates wrote what I imagine were things like, “a bad, bad, word you should never say,” or “what Daddy says to Mommy after he comes home from the Eire Pub,” I wrote nothing. I knew fucking well what the word meant, for my mother and grandfather could curse like sailors in a couple of different languages, and because my playmate across the street had told me that her older brother had told her other brother about several girls he wouldn’t fuck with somebody else’s dick, and we discussed the meaning. But I wrote nothing, convinced that if I admitted to knowing what the word meant, I’d be admitting to the crime.
After this exercise, I, along with a girl in my class who was so good I believe that she had never once and has not since ever committed a sin, were called into another room to talk to Sister. Sister’s reasoning was apparently that it had to be one of the two students in the class who would not admit to knowing that “FUCK” was, at least in the eyes of Sister, a bad, bad word. As we were interrogated, the other girl began to cry. She was dismissed, because Sister’s reasoning was apparently that it had to be the one student in the class who would not admit to knowing “FUCK” was a bad word, and also, would not cry. As I remember it, I had to write, “I will not write bad words” 100 times as punishment.
Those of you who were raised Catholic are saying to yourself, “it was CLEARLY the public school CCD hooligans,” as I would when I got older and realized the injustice I had suffered. For those who don’t know, CCD stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, or the basic teachings of the Catholic Church. But for public school kids, CCD is the once-a-week after school class at a Catholic school they must attend for years, to prepare for their Confirmation in the 7th grade. CCD is also Common Criminal Dayschool, the once-a-week after school class at which public school riff raff pilfer the desks of the good Catholic schoolchildren, stealing crayons, compasses and anything else not nailed down. And, obviously, it’s when they write bad, bad words in the Dick and Jane readers in the classroom.
I went home that day and told my mother the story of how Sister had accused, or rather convicted, me of the crime. She didn’t believe me. She was understanding, but obviously thought I was a little disturbed, a logical deduction given our circumstances. I was a sad and troubled kid, for sure. My father had died just a year before, and my mother was left alone with three little kids. To hear her tell it, she was barely holding it together. I’m certain she thought I was acting out, because any logical person wouldn’t believe a story about a nun directing 40 first graders to define the word “FUCK” in class. However, I insisted it was true, and my mother called the mother of my playmate across the street, also a classmate, and my story was eventually confirmed.
My mother, God rest her soul, had a wicked temper, but it appears that she may have also had some maternal instinct, as well as firsthand knowledge of nunnish retribution. The next day, she had to go to the school to register my younger brother for first grade. When she saw Sister, she politely asked about the incident, though when she told the story in later years, confessed it was all she could do to refrain from shoving a bright orange crayon down Sister’s throat. Mom asked Sister if she had any training in child psychology, remarking that she seemed to have dealt with the situation with a degree of sensitivity that pointed to advanced training. Sister got all puffed up and confirmed that yes, in fact, she had taken a child psychology course. Mom told Sister that she was pleased and relieved to have her children in such capable hands, especially in light of all that our family had been dealing with in the previous year.
I have never had such a good day at school as that one. I got to sell the candy, clap the erasers, and do all the teacher’s pet activities. The special treatment went on for quite some time. My mother had blown smoke so far up this nun’s ass that my brother was equally well-treated when he got there the following year. I never trusted it completely, as evidenced by the fear I still hold for the woman, but that probably has to do with the treatment I witnessed by her toward others. For instance, there was one boy who had trouble sitting still, and she routinely made him get down on his knees and stay there with his nose pressed to the floor. There was a girl who always looked a bit disheveled, and Sister often asked her what kind of mother she had, who would send her outside looking like that. I do know, though, that back then, stories like these would not have been lead news stories. I hope the boy who drew Jesus on the cross doesn’t suffer too much from the incident he is living through, and that he gets his Jesus stories straight some day.