Okay. I am my dogs’ mom.

I used to hate it when people referred to me as my dog’s mom. I’ve never been a mom and never wanted to be one.

Some people can own a dog and, throughout its life, adhere to the distinction between the species human and canine. The dog is treated like a dog, not a member of the family. I don’t find fault with that. Each person’s relationship with a pet is unique.

And though I used to cringe at the notion, perhaps I knew, deep down, that my relationships with my dogs transcended pet versus owner status.

Compassion is compassion. Love is love. Is it necessary to treat differently the recipient of that compassion and love because it has four paws and a tail? Is it anyone’s business how a pet owner views his or her animal? A dress or a pretty coat can sometimes simply be something to keep your pet warm. And, yes, sometimes it’s a thing that reminds the owner that the pet is his or her child.

My younger dog, Sally, is very ill now. She has meningitis. It was discovered more than a month ago after she began having grand mal seizures. We are in the treatment phase now—a roller coaster ride of this medication, that medication, observation, emergency intervention and expensive tests.

And unmitigated anxiety combined with a month of nearly sleepless nights. And days spent at work, struggling to remain focused on tasks. And constant worry about her future. And tears, grieving, panic, lost appetite and heart palpitations.

That sounds like the reaction of a human to a child’s serious illness, doesn’t it?

I am my dogs’ mom. I can’t turn off this switch that would, that might, put up a protective barrier between Sally’s illness and my reaction to it. I will be with my dog until the end, whatever that might look like. And my heart will be in this experience the entire way, exactly as though she were my child.

SallyJune2012DSC_0349Sally2012July

I’ll Feel Better When Idaho’s Legislators Leave Town

More than a month ago, I caught a cold. Eventually it squatted in my lungs and sat there tickling the tiny bronchioles and the alveoli, causing uncontrollable coughing, which was magnified at night when I’d try to sleep. I’d lie there, picturing the virus holding onto feathers, brushing my lungs’ inner workings every time I tried to doze off. Sleep left me for at least a week. Worse than that, the coughing was so violent, I pulled a muscle in my groin and my backside. Right now, weeks later, I still have a little cough. And, I can barely walk, what with the sharp twinge I feel each time I take a step on the right.

I’ve never been to see a chiropractor. But, with gardening season coming up, I need the full use of my back and legs. That’s my next doc appointment.

Here in Idaho, politics are just as crazy and misguided as ever. The legislators came to town and immediately began Satan’s work. They passed a bill to allow concealed guns on college campuses—in spite of the pleas against it from college administrators and presidents, the police force and students. In spite of the fact that there have been no instances of college students being shot on campus. But let’s be proactive, eh? Somewhere, the supporters of this insane law have located in the Constitution, the right of all Idahoans to tote guns wherever they want to. The proponents quote these words in defense: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Of course, in order to achieve these things, they must be able to kill someone else and rob them of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Happiness is a warm gun, I guess.

A must read is this from an Idaho professor: When May I Shoot a Student?

The looney legislators also passed the Ag-Gag bill in spite of vocal opposition. But, in the end, the Dairy Industry dragged the legislators along by the rings in their noses and the bill passed.

Ag-gag bills are anti-whistleblower bills that criminalize whistleblowing on factory farms. Never mind that whistleblowing employees have played a vital role in exposing animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental problems on industrial farms.

The agribusiness industry wants to prevent people from finding out about animal cruelty, food-safety issues, poor working conditions, among other things in factory farms.

In Idaho, last year, workers at an Idaho dairy farm were filmed viciously beating cows with canes, jumping on their backs as they moaned in distress, kicking them in the face, and even dragging sick and injured animals across concrete flooring with chains attached to their necks.

But the Dairy Industry here prevailed. And now, I will no longer support Idaho’s dairy or meat industry. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s has come to Boise—their meat and dairy products aren’t produced in Idaho.

And no way will Idaho allow silly, inconvenient regulations by the EPA to get in its way to pollute the environment. Rep. Paul Shepherd’s bill, HB 473, to nullify the EPA because of concerns from suction dredge miners about regulations is quickly making its way into the toxic waste of other “care-less-about-the-environment” bills.

Here in Idaho, our legislators are easily swayed by nonsensical testimony, like this that spews forth out of the mouth of one of our craziest legislators: “EPA just wants control, they want power,” Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, told the committee. She said veterans are “precious to us,” and many veterans find it “soothing” to do recreational suction dredge mining. “They’re trying to control us, and they’re trying to control our vets also,” she said.

And Rep. Lenore Barrett continues to introduce bills to repeal the state health insurance exchange, in spite of the fact that almost 44,000 Idahoans have signed up so far.

And HB 480 could be the law of the land soon. This bill will make all city design review rules voluntary, under legislation being pushed by Rep. Ed Morse, which means that developers in Idaho couldn’t be told to make structural changes in buildings they’re proposing just for esthetic reasons. So, by all means, sprinkle the beautiful Idaho landscape with monstrosities and pavement.

And, then we’ve got a bill proposed by Sen. Luker, sponsor of the “Free Exercise of Religion Act,” or what Bill Cope from the Boise Weekly calls the “Hall Pass to Be a Bigoted Bastard Bill.” Bigoted bastards will be allowed to refuse service to gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered individuals if these people violate someone’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

I wish I had Bill Cope’s job so that I could get paid to call people like Luker, “despicable, paltry, unfit, dumbshit cowards.”

But the one bill that will never get passed here, that won’t even get a hearing, is the one that supporters have been trying to pass for almost 8 years, in spite of the fact that 81% of Idahoans support it. This bill would amend the existing Idaho Human Rights Act (IHRA) to include workplace, housing, public accommodation, transportation, and education rights based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

Each day, Add the Words proponents have shown up at the legislature, hands over their mouths, silently protesting the refusal of this government body to even hear the bill. Police have arrested protesters for unlawful assembly, for trespassing, and for resisting and obstructing. That includes former Idaho State Senator Nicole LeFavour.

Well, that’s life in a state dominated by crazy Republicans and Tea Party folks.

It’s a sunny day. I’m going to hobble over to the nursery with my mom and buy a bunch of flowers. I will gaze upon them, hoping that their loveliness will distract my thoughts from the crazy that goes on here every year from January till about April.

asters

Rape Culture at UofO: Come at Me, Bros

Snoring Dog Studio:

This is how the world ends… when half of it is bullied into silence.

Originally posted on Make Me a Sammich:

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and rape culture.

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.59.43 PMMy friend Anne Thériault of The Belle Jarwrote a post a few days ago about an incident at University of Ottawa wherein several male members of student leadership gathered to chat about Anne Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. Ms. Roy had apparently beaten a dude for the office, and these dudes were not happy. They went on for several screens talking about how someone should “punish her with their shaft,” speculating about what venereal diseases she might have, and offering to buy beers for a guy who says he’s going to “fuck her in the ass” on someone’s desk. You’ll find the whole disgusting mess over on The Belle Jar. Here’s an excerpt from Anne’s article, which you should go read right now.

Someone punish her with their shaft. Someone punish her with…

View original 633 more words

The Science is In. My Dog Does LOVE Me!

“Your dog doesn’t love you.” – My brother has said to this my sister throughout the years in spite of her insistence that her dog Carmella does, truly does, love her.

He’s convinced that Carmella’s relationship with her is based solely on the fulfillment of her needs—primarily Carmella’s food needs, which are all-consuming (no pun intended). John isn’t convinced, no matter how much my sister makes a case for it, that Carmella’s behavior is evidence of true love.

Carmella

Carmella

I admit that, for a long time, I thought the same thing, even about my own dogs, especially Stella, whose behavior towards me has always seemed more like disdainful tolerance, rather than true affection. In the case of Carmella, I, too, assumed that her close bond to Carolyn stemmed from years of lavish treat-giving. A dog would have to be a fool, or a cat, to bite the hand of the person who puts the casserole dish on the floor after the humans have had their dinner.

But now, I’m happy to say to my brother—YOU’RE WRONG! Wrong. Because, researchers have discovered, through the amazing magic of MRI scanning, that dogs do experience the same feeling of love that humans do. Without all the shaming and petty disagreements over leaving the toilet seat up, however.

Scientists at Emory University, a place that receives lots of money to do useful studies, were interested in finding out how dogs’ brains work. They already know how cats’ brains work, which is to pursue killing or taunting their owners in the most devious ways imaginable. No mystery there.

digital illustration by Jean Calomeni, digital art by snoring dog studio, illustration of girl with Boston Terrier

The researcher, Gregory Berns, and his colleagues, first trained the dog subjects to tolerate the noise of the MRI machine. Frankly, if my dogs can tolerate the sound of my singing, I’m sure that getting used to the racket inside an MRI is nothing.

This study was done the right way, instead of faking the results and creating a not-really-controlled control group. They even obtained consent forms from the dogs’ owners! And witnessed by an inked paw print at the bottom of the form, too.

What they’ve discovered is that a dog’s brain isn’t that different from our own. Fascinating. That helps explain my snarling at strangers who get on the elevator with me just to get to one floor above or below.

The magic of this chemistry occurs in the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain that both humans and dogs share. I don’t know about cats. They’re not into sharing.

The caudate plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love, money and the upcoming season of The Walking Dead.

What Berns discovered was this: “…many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.”

Go ahead and call it love Dr. Berns. You know you want to.

Berns even proposes that dogs “have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.”  I admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable about that, considering my aversion to human children. But I do dress my dogs in human-like clothes. There’s that. And they get Christmas and birthday presents. And play dates.

The most startling comment made by Berns has to do with assigning “limited personhood” status to dogs. Before you get all uppity and indignant about that, you non-dog lovers, consider this: If the Supreme Court can grant citizenship to corporations, they sure as hell can do the same for my dogs. And, frankly, dogs behave much more responsibly as persons than 99% of corporations do. We let nincompoops vote, why not my dogs?

Assigning personhood to dogs is a fine thing for me. Most of the time I’d rather spend time with dogs rather than humans, anyway. And knowing that my dogs love me makes Valentine’s Day just a bit less gruesome for this single woman.

Carolyn, the next time your brother denies that Carmella loves you, really loves you, point him to this study. Tell him to get used to thinking of Carmella as a sentient being who loves him, too. As Jane Seymour says, “If Your Heart Is Open, Love Will Always Find Its Way In.”

digital illustration of boston terrier, snoring dog studio digital art,

BooHoo. Sad Little Economist Can’t Get a Date.

Spotlight on a whiny celebrated economist who couldn’t get dates on Match.com:

Paul Oyer wrote a long piece about his online dating experience and the term, “statistical discrimination.” Oyer, recently separated – SEPARATED – put up a profile on Match.com and was subsequently shunned by the majority of women online. He accuses them of practicing “statistical discrimination” versus “taste-based discrimination” (aka “prejudice”) and identifies himself as being a victim and a target of it.

Statistical Discrimination (Oyer’s words): The economics term for what most people would simply refer to as women acting on a stereotype based on my separated status.

He goes on to say: “What makes this a classic case of statistical discrimination (rather than taste-based discrimination) is that women do not hold ill will towards separated men. After all, these same women will date divorced men, all of whom were separated at some point.”

At the end of the article, Oyer wraps up his experience on Match.com with this insightful statement:

“And it’s been a useful reminder that, while overt discrimination is not nearly as bad as it used to be here in the United States, the detrimental effects of stereotyping are pervasive and substantial.”

First of all, women DO hold ill will towards the category of separated men who don’t bother with the messy details of a divorce, but rather decide to further cheat on their wives by dating other women. So, by way of definition, they are also practicing “taste-based discrimination.”

Second: Divorced men are NOT considered separated, no matter how Oyer attempts to contort the meaning. They will never be considered, by most women and in legal terms, as falling into the category of Separated.

Third: Whether calling it statistical discrimination or taste-based discrimination, to write an article comparing his unsuccessful and trivial attempt at online dating and serious examples of true statistical discrimination, is disrespectful to individuals who have suffered the real and disabling consequences of being discriminated against.

Fourth: The detrimental effects of stereotyping, in the case of the author’s inability to hook up, were not pervasive or substantial. The world will continue to rotate and revolve quite nicely without Oyer scoring on Match.com.

Oyer doesn’t appear to appreciate that most older women possess enough background knowledge, intelligence, self-preservation and experience to statistically discriminate against men who’ll be less-than satisfactory future mates. In his article, he calls this unjust. I see it as being aware and sensible.

As an aside, in my experience, too many older men are incapable of recognizing that there’s this lingering crud, called the ex or current estranged wife, stuck to their souls. In an online profile, it’s almost impossible to know that SHE is in the picture though, because, sadly, the separated man seeking dates is in denial. He has convinced himself that SHE is no more a part of his life than some stranger in a foreign country. It’s a remarkable gift, this ability to partition off something as significant as a still thriving connection to his ex or estranged—a connection very similar to the invasive plant called Kudzu, a climbing vine whose preferred habitat includes disturbed areas such as roadsides, forest edges, and the guy you’re interested in.

Why these men don’t exhibit enough self-awareness to realize they haven’t moved on and shouldn’t be starting up any relationships, even one with a goldfish, is beyond me. But they get online, post a profile and start contacting women. If this separated guy posting a profile on an online dating service possesses something resembling a spine, even a wire hanger version of one, he might admit that he’s in a troubled relationship. He won’t develop a profile that paints a picture of himself as an eligible, available, intelligent and financially well-off prospect.

Oyer seems to be one of these men, although at the end of his article, it appears that he resolved his problem and has moved into the category of “divorced.’

Lament it all you will, whine about it, write an article that gets posted on PBS Newshour—but know this: single women will discriminate. Whether it’s statistical or based on their opinions and feelings about certain classes of men, women will act in their best interests. No amount of whining by men like Oyer will soften us up.

Next time, if Oyer wants us to hear his words about statistical discrimination and take away some lessons from it, it would be best to avoid a nonsensical comparison of his trivial experience to those of real and pervasive discrimination.

Let's throw him a pity party!

Let’s throw him a pity party!

No, This is The Love Boat.

Do luxury cruises ever live up to their expectations? Are they the last refuge of the truly unimaginative newlyweds, singles looking for action and anniversary celebrants?

I don’t know. That’s not how I ended up taking a cruise.

Several decades ago my mom, sister, brother-in-law and I drove down to Galveston from my mom’s home in San Antonio and boarded one of the Princess Cruises. My father stayed home because he had been naughty. Mom decided he should stay in San Antonio and spend the week alone reflecting on his bad behavior. I’m not certain he did that. I suspect, rather, that he watched a lot of bad TV, read awful books, and ate vast amounts of peanut butter straight from the jar.

It seems to me that cruise shippin’ is the perfect environment for an extrovert who doesn’t thrive on hazardous sports, but wants to be surrounded by group activities. It isn’t a perfect environment for an introvert like me.

Ads for cruises paint a delightful picture of people having fun, staying up late, relaxing and eating well. Everyone seems caught up in an aura of exuberant rapture. They’d have you think that no one is sitting alone, in their cabin, missing their pets. Is any of it reality? It’s not an introvert’s reality. Asking an introvert to enjoy a cruise is like expecting a lizard to shed its skin and trade it for a spandex bodysuit.

Once in a while, I’ll catch an episode of The Love Boat on Me TV. It’s a painful show to watch (as are The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, and The Partridge Family). The forced gaiety, canned laughter, insipid love triangles and mating escapades, and, definitely, Doc’s predatory sexual behavior and the blatantly sexist dialogue turn my stomach.

Fortunately, I didn’t experience any of that on my cruise, though there were some uncomfortable and anxious moments. Within hours of our trip, a younger man glommed onto my mom and began to stalk her. Okay, he wasn’t exactly stalking. My mom has this magnetic, warm personality that draws people to her. I take after my dad. I exude get-the-hell-away-from-me rays, which have proved to be very effective at driving people away.

During the cruise, I turned into Mama Bear. I glared at the stalker every time he wandered up to speak to my mom. My sister and I devised elaborate schemes to keep him from finding our mother. I created an elaborate back-story for the guy: He was a gold-digger, a predator with a history of cruise-ship stalking, an ax murderer preying on the elderly. It kept me awake at night. My mom, however, was flattered. She likes people. Generally speaking, as a category of living things, people don’t thrill me much.

Meanwhile, my mom felt that it was her responsibility to help me, a single, eligible woman, to enjoy the cruise. And that included badgering me until I agreed to attend line-dancing classes onboard. Somehow, I managed to stuff my dignity into a dark place, and I participated. It delighted my mom. Fortunately, I escaped without having to fend off unwanted advances, proving once again how effective those GTHAFM rays are.

My memories of that cruise are mixed, but mostly wonderful. I was able to spend a week with my mom, away from cranky dad, with no responsibilities other than to make sure that my mom wasn’t taken in by some gigolo. I discovered that she was then, as she has been in my older years a mom who is also a good friend.

This January, my mom, my sister, her husband, and my brother went on a 2-week cruise to Hawaii. I stayed behind—not because I had been naughty, however. I simply couldn’t scrape up the vacation time. I would also be starting my mom’s bathroom remodel as well as doing dog sitting for three terriers. My family cruise gang luckily missed some of the worst winter weather in Idaho. They missed the 8 inches of snow that fell overnight and a string of cold, bleak, windy days.

This cruise occurred almost exactly a year since my dad’s passing on January 5. I hoped that my mom would, with the warm sun of a different climate, feel refreshed and comforted by the presence of her loved ones. I’m pretty certain she did. It was, after all, a truer representation of a love boat than the one inhabited by the likes of Gopher, Isaac and the annoying and anemic cruise director, Julie.

The best part of it all is that mom seems glad to be back home. Home. A world away from what was called home a year ago, her Idaho home appears to be giving her what she needs—comfort, solace, safety. And that fills me with joy.

snoring dog studio digital illustration, digital art by snoring dog studio, illustration of lady on cruise ship

She’s Queen of the World.