Monthly Archives: June 2016

Trainer, Train Thyself!

The dogs just wanted to play with me this afternoon, and we were having a fantastic time fetching.  But then I found pee on the rug and it took all the joy out of it for me.  As I’ve already acknowledged in these blog posts, I’m not a very good trainer.  And Gizmo’s marking behavior – which has somehow infected Munchie since we’ve been in the new apartment; I thought I was buying an area rug to cut some of the noise but evidently what I bought was a $60 weewee pad  – has been a problem ever since I took him in as a foster back in October of 2014.  But when I yell at him and tell him “No!” he gets mad at ME!!

I’ve had animals all my life, but I’ve never managed to learn how to train them properly.  Fortunately, most of my creatures were reasonably well-behaved, with a few notable exceptions (Gizmo is by far the one most in need of correction).  Even when I followed the rules of an expensive trainer, hired to help us with Loki, who from the moment we adopted him had severe separation anxiety, I still failed to get through to the dog.  (Another charming thing that Loki did was scream with joy every time we walked up Montgomery Place in Park Slope to go to Prospect Park, to the point of embarrassment.  I had to sheepishly explain to stoop-sitters we passed along the way, “No, really, I’m not hurting him.  He’s HAPPY.”)  At the trainer’s insistence, to prevent Loki from tearing up the living room and making a poop deposit any time we left the house (and it did not matter for how LONG we left the house –it could literally be a span of minutes), we needed to lock him in the kitchen, which was at the far end of a long hallway from the living room.  As much as I thought this was cruel, we trusted the trainer and did it anyway.  We even locked Alfie, our more “mature” dog, in there as well to keep Loki company, even though Alfie had no such issues.  (Alfie was a GREAT dog but her biggest quirk was that she tended to be easily spooked.  I remember one time she ran away from my boyfriend at the time (and the dogs’ co-parent) in the middle of First Avenue in the East Village, set off by some mysterious trigger.  She also got loose once on Governor’s Island but, short of getting on the ferry, she wasn’t going anywhere we couldn’t catch her.)

So anyway, after saying goodbye down the long hallway to Loki and Alfie behind the gate in the kitchen – there was probably some pitiful whining from Loki and a sad “Do I REALLY have to be in here?” look from Alfie – we headed out.  A short time later –a couple of hours, at most – we came home and peeked around the door and down the hallway to the kitchen.  There were the pups behind the gate, happy as could be that we had returned!  “Good boy, Loki!”  I said as I went to move down the hallway, thrilled that he hadn’t been traumatized by being caged.  [An aside:  Following advice from other dog owners, we had tried to crate him on the first couple of nights he was with us, but HE CRIED.  Incessantly.  We couldn’t take it.  We had to bring him into bed, and he basically never left.  See?  Horrible follow-through.]

“Uh, Nan . . . “ I heard from behind me.  I turned to look, and I saw what was in the living room:  mounds of couch pillow fluff with a huge poop right in the middle!  Evidently, Loki – so named for his mischievous nature – could just as easily have been named “Houdini”.  He had managed to jump the gate, come into the living room to do his nasty business, and then jump back over the gate into the kitchen.  He was always smarter than he looked, our Loki.  He lived a good long life and did mellow out as he got older, although his nose was perpetually out of joint that we had brought home a little human to bump him out of the “baby” position.  Alfie, on the other hand, was a fantastic babysitter to little Darian, excitedly running out to find us if she heard even a peep out of the crib.

But the point of this digression is  that I’m pretty sure I have the wrong attitude when it comes to “correcting” my naughty pets.  I understand training is necessary, and that it’s even GOOD for a pet to be well-behaved (i.e., well-trained).  I actually know an effective trainer but I’m terrified to go to his (free!) group sessions [LB Dogs] on weekend mornings with my two crazy canine kids because I already know Gizmo has trouble being around other dogs (which is one of the reasons I want to get training, for him AND for me!).  He also evil-growls and tries to bite when you do something he doesn’t like – for instance, CORRECTING him about peeing on the rug.  I’m afraid my friend Marty is going to throw up his hands when he sees how incapable I am of being forceful enough to get any of my training to click with the boys.

I must admit, though, after the first few weeks, they have been remarkably well-behaved going up and down in the elevator at least three times a day (although, admittedly, nearly two months along in our tenure here, we have YET to run into another dog, which I consider a fortunate thing).  I’ve been picking up and carrying little Munchie, to avoid his being freaked out by bikes or carts or strollers or surfboards or anything else, really, since pretty much everything freaks him out.  But while we’re waiting and while we’re in the elevator, Gizmo usually assumes what I call the “butterbean” position, where he tucks his limbs up underneath him and lowers his head, resembling a furry white legume with a tail.   I suspect in Gizmo’s former life he was an apartment dog, because I certainly didn’t teach him to do that – he just did it naturally.  And on our walks and in the elevator, he lets people pet him, which is great; Munchie, on the other hand, wavers being between shy and a complete flirt.

Keeping them quiet is another issue entirely, although I’ve been maintaining the dog bark log I mentioned last week and have come to some conclusions.  What they bark at the most are the cats (which unfortunately I cannot tell my downstairs neighbor), but noises from outside are also a big factor.  The barks themselves are pretty evenly split between the pair of them (and less often both together) and range from 10 to 15 daily.  They’re generally short and sharp rather than sustained bouts.  But I’ve promised them multiple times that, once we’re back home, I’ll let them bark as much as they want!!

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Truly Random Thoughts (Or, a series of pretty accurate snapshots of my daily brain)

This past week was a bit chaotic, getting my kid off to South Africa for her three-week internship at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre on the outskirts of Kruger National Park.  She was surprisingly nervous for such an intrepid traveler, but by the time she arrived in Johannesburg yesterday – after 18 hours on two different planes with a four-hour layover in between during the early morning hours, so she couldn’t even enjoy some Heinekens in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport while she waited – she had calmed down and was ready to undertake her adventure.  Today we finally figured out how to communicate via text and a pre-paid phone, so that offered some relief, too.  While I was able to track her flight and knew exactly where she was in the sky at all times, it was still a little nerve-wracking until I knew for sure that she had touched down.  My biggest fear was that she would fall asleep in the airport and miss her connecting flight.  I’m looking forward to her photos and tales of her adventures.

The whole time she was preparing to go, I kept thinking about my (crazy, I realize now) parents letting me, at 15 years of age, fly by myself halfway around the world to live with strangers in Chile for three months (see “Viajes”, 7/14/15).  There was no Internet or mobile phones in those days so that you could easily keep in touch.  Now, of course, taking into consideration the time difference, you can have instantaneous contact whether you’re one mile away or 10,000 (more like 7,950, but still).  And frankly, I was a terrible correspondent.  I don’t know how they did it.  (Perhaps they were happy to see the back of me!!  I remember my mother telling me once that, from about the ages of 14 to 17, every time I came in the house the hair on the back of her neck stood up.)

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I’m still having flashbacks to this week’s Game of Thrones episode.  It was the most intense hour of television I can recall in recent memory, and I’m counting down the hours to next week’s season finale, which promises to be another hour-plus chock-full of intensity.  But what am I going to do with myself after next weekend, with no GOT for another year and no hockey for at least the rest of the summer?  Maybe I should get out more, or catch up on some films.  I have a list as long as my  arm AND my leg of movies I want to see, but I’m not even sure any more how to go about getting access to them other than the ”On Demand” movies available on my premium cable channels.  I may have to break down and get a “trial membership” for Netflix, which they’re always offering to me as a former subscriber.  But, as I recall, they don’t have a great selection of films anymore, at least not available for streaming – and do they even still do the CD thing?  Maybe I can binge-watch “Orange is the New Black” or “Orphan Black” or even “Breaking Bad”, which I never watched the first time around despite being highly recommended by someone whose taste I trust.

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I play Words With Friends obsessively.  I have like ten games going, with friends and strangers alike.  I don’t even really care if I win – I just like the challenge of playing against someone else, trying to make the best possible word with the letters I’ve got and what my opponent has left me on the board – and this despite the fact that the program crashes with alarming frequency.  Lately Google Chrome has been putting up an “Oh, Snap!” icon and asking me if I want to give my feedback about how mad I am that I keep continually crashing, and I always send the feedback, but I don’t know where it’s going or if it’ll do any good.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s putting me on some kind of “clueless” list of people who have no idea of what viruses and malware they’re allowing to infect their computers.  It’s actually time for my bi-annual visit from Neil, my computer guy.  And I’ve definitely learned my lesson about backing things up, so hopefully the next full-on crash (and I’m totally expecting there to be one) won’t be as devastating as some of my prior data disasters.

* * *

After an aggravating process of getting clearances for, and then undergoing, a minor diagnostic surgical procedure, I’ve officially gotten a clean bill of health today, which is always a relief when you get to be my age.  Even though I have chronic and multiple aches and pains in nearly every part of my body, and I take way too many daily pills for maintenance of my various conditions (many of which would be reduced if not eliminated completely by losing at least 20 and more like 40 pounds; my secretary and her husband recently had some kind of gastric bypass surgery and have succeeded in losing enough weight to basically cure themselves of high blood pressure and diabetes), I am a reasonably healthy person, and for that I am extremely grateful.  A few close friends recently have been valiantly battling cancer and other serious ailments and I’m full of admiration for their steadfastness and the strength of their life forces.  Support networks are so vital during treatment and recovery, but unless you’re right next door, it’s hard to know what to do to help (even though you really want to).  It also reminds you how precious friends and family are, and how beautiful life can (and should) be.  When illness afflicts our friends and family members, or tragedies like the Orlando shooting strike strangers, we are overwhelmed with sadness and grief, but life demands that the focus be redirected to things that are joyful and uplifting.  Easier said than done, I know, but that’s the only answer.  There is a great Martin Luther King quote that I have up on my bulletin board that reads, in part:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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Speaking of hate, I’ve been struck by a thought recently about Donald Trump, who (finally!) seems to be sinking like a stone from the weight of his own ego and stupidity as his campaign implodes.  Wouldn’t it be classic if one day very soon he gets on TV and just says, “I’m out”?  I wouldn’t put it past him, not for one second.  He’ll spin it, of course, to make it appear that he has controlled every aspect, and he could have won the presidency, but due to one fake and/or overblown reason or another – he’ll come up with something absurd, I’m sure – he’s decided to abandon his campaign.  A move like that would show him to be nothing more than the big-mouthed bully (i.e., coward) that he is and would serve the lunatic Republican Party right.  We’ll see how this plays out over the coming months, but I’m a tad less frightened today than I was a few weeks ago that there is even a snowball’s chance in hell of Trump being elected president.

* * *

The flaky lady downstairs is becoming an issue.  I ran into her in the lobby of my building yesterday and we rode the elevator up together.  She acts all friendly, but evidently she finds my dogs and their incessant barking “very distracting”.  First of all, I know for a fact that they do NOT bark incessantly because I am home with them the bulk of the time (6 days a week, at most gone for a couple of hours a day for errands or volunteering at the shelter).  They’re pretty lazy dogs, too, so I can’t imagine that they’re frantically running around screaming and yelling when I’m not home.  They’re mostly sleeping, and they bark – usually a short, sharp burst, nothing sustained, especially when I’m here to threaten them with the spray bottle – when they’re triggered by some noise or distraction.  The lady said to me, “You’re used to having dogs, so it may not seem like a lot of barking to YOU!”  Like everything else anyone says to me, I took this to heart, because maybe she’s right and I want nothing more than to be a considerate neighbor.  So I’ve started keeping a “barking log” in order to have some indication of exactly when and how often they’re barking and what’s causing it.  For example, at 12:43 A.M. this morning, someone was shooting off fireworks (yes, fireworks:  As you might imagine, this isn’t a particularly quiet neighborhood to begin with – the other day, a car alarm was going off every ten minutes for two hours from like 6 A.M. to 8 A.M. and then ANOTHER car alarm was going off every 20 minutes all damn day – and yet, it is my two little dogs barking occasionally that is so “distracting” to my downstairs neighbor).  Woken from his sleep by the racket, of course Munchie had to squeeze out a few barks.  I do not blame him.  Who is shooting off LOUD fireworks at 12:43 A.M. on a Monday night/Tuesday morning?  The nerve.  But the next time she challenges me on my noisy animals, I’ll be armed with EVIDENCE.

In all seriousness, I don’t know what she wants me to do about them, although at one point she (somewhat disturbingly, especially given how paranoid I already am about having more animals than I’m supposed to in this apartment) challenged my having TWO dogs, as if having one fewer dog would mean any less barking.  Dogs are legitimately permitted in this building, and I pay my rent like everyone else (and an extra fee and deposit for the privilege of having them here).  I’m entitled to live my life without having to change my behavior to suit my neighbors (although of course I have changed my behavior, because I’m sensitive like that, but there’s a limit).

Perhaps I should use my mediation training to settle my own dispute. In fact, there was an exercise that we did our in week-long seminar that involved noise in an apartment building, and in fact it is an extremely common cause of friction between neighbors.  Here’s what I would (and hopefully will, if given the opportunity) say to her:  “Look, [name withheld], as I’m discovering, a lot of this is just the reality of sharing walls and floors and ceilings with other human beings, all of whom are (presumably) paying their rent and entitled to go about the daily business of living their lives.

“But I am sympathetic to your concerns, and I want to be a good neighbor for the brief time that we’re going to be here together.  Short of me moving out or getting rid of the dogs, neither of which is going to happen (for a while, anyway, given that they haven’t even started working on my house yet), is there something I can do to address the problem?  Is any particular time of day more troublesome?  Would you like my cell number so you can text me if you’re being inordinately bothered by something the boys and/or I are doing?  I’m honestly sorry that my dogs’ barking bothers you.  I’d really like to try to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, because I like you and I think we could even become friends if given a chance.”

Think it will work?  Watch this space!  Besides, it could always be worse:  I have a friend who lives in a pretty fancy high-rise building with a Hudson River view who, a few times a week, sometimes in the middle of the day, hears quite clearly her neighbors having noisy sex!!

Career Inertia

Once again I feel as if I’ve lost my occupational confidence.  When it comes to a money-earning career that offers personal fulfillment, I know even less now than ever before what kind of work I would rather be doing than what I’m doing now.  The idea of reaching out to network with people who might be amenable to offering me a job or collaborating on a project of some sort is petrifying to me.  I feel completely incapable of such social and professional “negotiation”.  I’m not looking for back-pats or pumping up; in fact, I don’t even believe when people tell me how capable and/or helpful I’ve been.

The first step in such an exploration, whether it’s doing the self-assessments in What Color is Your Parachute? (Richard N. Bolles, Ten Speed Press, 2013) or The Encore Career Handbook (Marci Alboher, Workman Publishing, 2013) or just making a list on a piece of blank lined paper, is to consider those activities that give me a feeling of satisfaction.  Lately it always comes back to writing (which has been the one constant – I’ve ALWAYS written and consider myself to be, at heart, a WRITER), and what I seem to enjoy doing more than anything else is trolling the Internet to find stories and profiles and opinion pieces and all manner of shared words and music and videos that interest and inspire me to think and write about them.  I try to sneak this activity in every day in between (paid) work tasks, but I mostly do it guilt-free on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

This past Saturday, I read an article by former NHLer Dan Carcillo on The Players’ Tribune website about his efforts, now that he’s retired, to build a support network for his fellow retiring players, many of whom have a difficult time adjusting to life after hockey.  [“The Fourth Period”,  The Players’ Tribune, 6/8/16, http://www.theplayerstribune.com/daniel-carcillo-hockey-concussions-depression-steve-montador-2016-6-8/%5D.  Yes, it was a good article and Carcillo, a bit of a brute in his days on the ice (he was even a Ranger for a short time), is very thoughtful and earnest in his efforts, and I hope he succeeds.  But the inspiration I took from this article on this particular day – and it wasn’t the first time – was, what a great website!  (Good thinking, Derek Jeter and your wise advisors!)  It consists of articles written (ghost-written?) by past, present and future professional athletes, offering an insider’s perspective in his or her own words.  I would love to somehow work for this website – i.e. to transcribe the players’ interviews or dictations and edit their words and writings for public consumption.  Given my background as a transcriptionist and editor, it seems I would be very well suited, and I certainly know a lot about sports.  But then I start getting hung up:  How would I possibly get that gig?  Who would I call?  Would they need writing samples?  Would they need to interview me?  And what if I did somehow get the job?  What if I couldn’t actually DO it?  What if I was crap and caused more work for my higher-up editors instead of being relied upon to produce a quality product?  This is the trajectory of what happens in my head when I get an idea about a career move.  Add in the salary factor, and you can predict what will happen:  NOTHING.  Absolute paralysis.  I went through the same convoluted – and ultimately dead-ended – thinking when it came to my great idea to get a job on the ground floor with the NWHL last year, in its premiere season.  I have a huge file of articles about it – but no steps were ever taken.  What would I have to offer?  Yes, I’m a lawyer, but what do I know about player contracts or anything else in the sports law arena, for that matter?

With the possible exception of my blog, which I’ve managed to sustain for over a year by being very committed to posting consistently once a week every Tuesday, over the past 14 years (basically since I made the admittedly great decision to go to law school), none of the attempts at shifting my career path have panned out – or I haven’t allowed them to.  Mediation, for starters:  I committed a couple thousand dollars and over a year of my time to training to be a professional mediator and what came of it?  Nothing.  It was another failed experiment, like trying to be a teacher back in the 1980s.  Grant writing?  Took a course at Nassau Community College and did a few proposals for Global Kids, the non-profit youth organization where I worked many years ago, to get my feet wet, but the feedback and follow-up weren’t encouraging, so I’ve essentially abandoned it, even now that I volunteer for Post Pets Rescue, for whom I could be writing grant requests galore.  Throughout my grant-writing class, I remember thinking that I would probably prefer working on the grant-GIVING side of the nonprofit world.  Well, recently I have been given an opportunity to do pro bono work (and maybe more) for Amie’s Place Foundation, an organization that supports worthy programs that strive to keep pets and their people together in times of crisis.  And yet somehow I can’t manage to commit fully to that either, even though I know an expanded role for me would be welcomed by Amie’s Place.  Two fears consistently creep in:  (1) I’m afraid I’ll disappoint the wonderful, dedicated donor (a woman of whom I am very fond and, of all people, the one I would least want to disappoint) and (2) I’ll be crappy at it because I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be doing.  Why do I so consistently get caught up in these destructive mind cycles?

Becoming an “animal lawyer” was another idea I had that would ostensibly enable me to have fulfillment as a human while making enough money to live on.  Given that there is no established “animal law” field, and people who practice law involving animals cover the gamut from dog-bite cases to providing for pets in a will, the opportunities are endless.  Apart from buying a few books and reaching out to James Gesualdi, an extremely helpful attorney who once taught a class in animal law at my old law school and has actually managed to create his own satisfying career in the field working primarily with zoological and marine parks with his “Excellence Beyond Compliance” program, I’ve done NOTHING to get me from point A to point B.  Again, one might have thought volunteering for Posh Pets would afford me an opportunity to learn a little something about being an animal lawyer, but so far, and quite typically, I’ve done NOTHING.

It’s all highly frustrating, and worst of all, I feel like I’m wasting my fast-dwindling remaining years in a sort of discontented limbo, waiting for something to happen to force my hand.

The only reason my blog has worked, I suspect, is because I gave myself permission to fail.  I wasn’t doing it for anyone else – I was just doing it for ME, and if other people found it and liked it, well, that was gravy.  My blog was essentially just like my journal, but in a slightly more public format.  No one – other than me – judges my journal; I’m free to share (or not) what I please but otherwise it’s for my own personal consumption and enjoyment.  Removing the risk of failure has meant I’m not afraid to do it, which flies in the face of the “no risk, no reward” cliché, when you think about it:  My reward is that I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something, even if no one other than me reads it, or likes it.  On a small scale, it makes me proud of myself.

* * * * *

A post-script to my entry of a few weeks ago [“I Don’t Know If I Can Take Five More Months of This”, 6/1/16]:  Well, it looks now that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.  Hillary has many faults, I’ll never dispute that.  Perhaps the largest criticism of her is that she’s old school, a bit hawkish, part of the old boy’s network providing more of the same in our broken system.  But there’s a key difference:  SHE’S NOT AN “OLD BOY”.  She brings a decidedly female perspective, much needed and long overdue in this country at this juncture in history.  And for that reason alone, she should be our next president during this vital transitional time, a link between past and future, the first of her gender (and first of many, now that the door is open).

I read what I thought was an accurate assessment of Hillary Clinton the other day in an article by Matthew Yglesias on VOX (my new favorite informational website) [vox.com] (“Many of the factors that helped Hillary beat Bernie will let her crush Trump”, VOX, June 8, 2016, http://www.vox.com/2016/6/8/11871254/hillary-bernie-trump):  “Clinton’s solid, detail-oriented nature projects a calming message to people who are not instinctively inclined to agree with her ideology:  She knows what she’s doing and she knows what she’s talking about. [emphasis mine]  Trump’s inability to get those who best understand the stakes to agree that he’s qualified to serve does exactly the opposite.  You may favor low taxes and be skeptical of business regulations and abortion rights, but you can be sure the United States will survive four years of Clinton — and there are no such guarantees about Trump.”

Pet People

I love my pets, and I know how companion animals of all kinds enrich our measly human lives.  I do pro bono work for an organization called Amie’s Place Foundation, the mission of which is to prevent the forced separation of people and their pets, particularly in times of crisis and illness.  There have been numerous studies done that prove that, especially among the elderly, pets enable their owners to stay more active, mentally and physically, as well as more measureable impacts like lowered blood pressure.  The work supported by this fine organization resonates very deeply with me, and I am even more conscious of it now after having learned first-hand how difficult it is to find rental units (or even owned co-op units where there’s a controlling board that makes rules the residents have to live by) that will permit you to have even one pet, of small size, let alone more than one, of any species, breed or dimension.

In NYC, there is a movement – in fact, an entire cottage industry – to get pets certified as emotional support animals (or ESAs) so that landlords and management companies can’t force them (or the owner) out. Unlike service animals (which at present are limited to dogs and mini-horses specially trained  to assist their owners with specific disabilities – seeing-eye dogs, for example, or diabetes detectors), an ESA is an animal (typically a dog or cat but also other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit – such as emotional support and comfort to individuals with psychiatric disabilities and other mental impairments – to its owner through companionship. ESAs are not automatically granted access to places of public accommodation, but under federal law an ESA is considered a “reasonable accommodation” in a housing unit that has a “no pets” rule for its residents.  [Rebecca F. Wisch, “FAQs on Emotional Support Animals,” Michigan State University College of Law, Animal Legal and Historical Center, https://www.animallaw.info/article/faqs-emotional-support-animals#s2.%5D

At the other end of the spectrum, there are more and more companies (I imagine mostly in the  country’s “hipster earmuffs” of Silicon Valley and Brooklyn) that permit – nay, encourage – people to bring their doggies to work.  (For a great overview, see Jeff Daniels, “Pooch Perk:  More Companies Embracing Pet-Friendly Office Policy”, NBC News website, October 17, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/careers/pooch-perk-more-companies-embracing-pet-friendly-office-policy-n445931, or the adorable “Pets at Work” videos from Purina on YouTube, which, unsurprisingly, is a pet-friendly workplace.)  How much better we humans can focus on work when we have our happy pets nearby!!  I work from home, and my animals are always surrounding me, at my feet, sometimes on the desk itself (I’m looking at you, Luna!)  And I love when Savannah comes over and stands up with one paw on my knee and the other one reaching out to me for chin chucks and head bumps to break up the work day.  It soothes me deep inside.

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True, having my pets around me at all times is not all bubblegum and lollipops:  It also drives me crazy when the boys start barking for no apparent reason (not apparent to ME, anyway) and no amount of “Enough already!” will get them to stop, which is why I’ve taken to keeping a spray water bottle at the ready, especially now that I need to keep the noise to a minimum in consideration of my neighbors.  It’s less of an issue when we’re in our home, of course; then they’re just annoying ME.

Yes, there are myriad benefits to having pets.  There are also the monetary costs for daily maintenance – such as food,  litter, toys and other entertainment —and those very large special expenses – such as pet meds (which I understand more people are buying discounted online these days but I have yet to figure that out) and veterinary care for acute and chronic health issues.  There’s pet insurance, but it doesn’t really work the same way or cover as much as human medical insurance (and we all know how well THAT works).  I love my vet, All Creatures in Long Beach, NY, and they do give me a multi-pet discount, but they are VERY expensive.  Fortunately, while it can be a financial burden at times (most recently, $450 for an EKG to diagnose Mimi’s heart murmur), I can cover the costs.  But how many people neglect to get medical care for pets who need it simply because they cannot afford it?  I believe it’s one of the largest reasons people give up their pets (or don’t adopt in the first place).  My Gizmo is likely a victim of just that situation.  The way I’ve heard his story (although I don’t have all the facts) is, after getting hit by a car, his so-called “family” of 4 years turned him in to the kill shelter rather than get him the needed veterinary care.  Those people are jerks who don’t deserve to have a dog, for starters (and Gizmo’s got the emotional scars and trust issues to prove it), but if vet care had been free or low-cost at, say, a local clinic, or if there were a way for them to get financial help with serious vet bills, they might have decided they could afford to get him the help he needed.

Another prohibitive cost is for training, which would benefit ALL dogs (and their owners), provided that there’s follow-through.  (I once spent $500 on weeks of intensive training for a dog with serious separation anxiety only to completely abandon everything I’d learned after we were done with our sessions – so of course the dog did as well.)  Here in Long Beach, the wonderful Marty Aynat and his LB Dogs crew give free weekly training clinics for dogs of all breeds, sizes and temperaments, although I admit I have not managed to bring my naughty boys over yet.  I suspect they may need a “private lesson”, especially Gizmo, of whom it could never be said that he is friendly to – or even tolerant of – other dogs.

But the biggest hurdle of all to the universal acceptance of people’s pets, and dogs in particular ?  Irresponsible pet owners – that is, people who don’t clean up after their dogs do their business, leaving disease-carrying poop behind on public sidewalks and even other people’s property.  It’s infuriating.  I would love for my dogs to be allowed on the beach, or even the Boardwalk, but because a few bad apples don’t pick up after their dogs, the rest of us (who DO pick up after our dogs) are not allowed to enjoy the perks of Long Beach living.  It takes so little!  Just bring a baggie, and when the dog poops, put the bag around your hand like a glove and pick it up!!  Then find the nearest garbage pail – preferably a public one, but I’m sure a resident will mind less a tied up poop bag in his or her garbage can than big chunks of doodie on his or her lawn or driveway.  Is it really so difficult?

You also hear about horrendous cases of hoarding, like the recent cases in New Jersey, one where a couple had upwards of 250 dogs (how is that even POSSIBLE?) and the other lady with the 80+ cats.  These are isolated and unusual incidents, so disturbing that they’re worthy of being mentioned on the local 11 o’clock news.  But are these oddballs at the root of why landlords and management companies are so reluctant to let people with more than one pet to live in their buildings?  Chances are good that the pet owner is not a hoarder and will maintain a clean environment (and hopefully the dog or dogs will not carry on barking too much, as they are wont to do when they’re left alone bored most of the day), so people – and their pets – should be entitled to live wherever they’d like.

The bottom line is that, if pet owners want to be able to have their pets in all manner of residential and shared public environments, it’s up to the owners to be RESPONSIBLE.  Clean up after your pets.  Take them to the vet and make sure they’re current on their vaccines.  Keep them on a leash and control them around children and other pets.  (It really burns me when a person – usually a guy – says of his leash-less dog, “Oh, he won’t do anything,” and then the dog immediately and aggressively approaches my little pups and needs to be grabbed just in time.)  Better yet, get them trained.  It is a big commitment to have a pet, and the vast majority of pet owners are caring, responsible people.  But as with most things that are part and parcel of sharing our planet with other creatures (including other humans), we need to be more aware of how our actions impact others.  I believe pets can make us better people, if we let them.

I Don’t Know If I Can Take Five More Months of This

Every time I see Donald Trump on TV or in photos, I throw up a little in my mouth.  To me he is a caricature, an unfunny cartoon.  How can anyone take seriously a man who looks (and talks) like that?

And yet, millions of people do.  “He speaks his mind” is commonly identified as part of his appeal. Seriously? The way I hear him, he does nothing but spout unfiltered (and largely incoherent) BS because that’s what he thinks his audience du jour wants to hear.  He is a joke.  And yet he is a freakish happenstance away from being my country’s president, the so-called “leader of the Free World”.  How can right-thinking people (who I’d like to think are in the majority, although I am often sadly disappointed at how horrible and ignorant many Americans are) allow this to happen?

I know I’ve written about Trump before [“OK Politics”, 6/30/15; “A Broken System”, 12/30/15], as much as it pains me to give him even a minute of my precious time, but how could I not?  He’s everywhere, force-fed to us by an incredulous media that continues to promote the Frankenstein monster they’ve essentially created, giving him free promotion and publicity while he continually denigrates the media for being liars (pot calling the kettle black?).  How can we possibly put up with five more months of this?

Clearly, the populace is disgruntled, to say the least, with the current state of our government, on the left and on the right, and understandably so.  But why is a horror show like Trump, his head about as empty as the petty, pinch-mouthed pumpkin he is, catching on with a greater number of people than curmudgeonly (but somehow lovable) Bernie Sanders?  It’s that word “socialism,” I’m afraid.

Why are people so scared of Bernie Sanders’ brand of “socialism” anyway?  When Bernie was on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday, he spoke about how he’s not in favor of tearing down capitalism, because there’s a lot of good that capitalism has done for this country and the world.  But there are certain things in life – like healthcare, like education, like a roof over one’s head and food in one’s family’s mouths – that should not be about the profit margin but should always be AVAILABLE to everyone and also PAID FOR by everyone.  I do not have any qualms with my tax dollars being used to help children and families live a healthy existence and raise themselves out of poverty and ignorance by getting a good and useful education in a nation that loudly touts itself as the greatest in the world.  What’s wrong with taking care of each other?  Sure, you can take care of yourself first, make certain your personal needs are met and your own children are secure, but once you’ve done that, you take care of others:  kids, animals, the elderly, people less fortunate.  It just so happens that many – if not most – of the people who have not only ENOUGH to satisfy their own needs but many multiples MORE than enough are the ones least likely to want to contribute to taking care of their fellow human beings.

With the general election still months away, and the pomp and ridiculousness of the party conventions yet to come, many decisions have clearly already been made about who Americans will vote for come November.  One point of agreement seems to be that our political system is broken, and Hillary Clinton is (and has been) part of (and a product of) it for a long time.  But I have no problem voting for her – and in all likelihood I will – even though at heart I’m more aligned with Bernie Sanders’ goals and ideals for our country.  Hillary is smart, and experienced, and determined, and she’s on the correct side of the ideological aisle.  And she’s also a woman, which is a big plus, as far as I am concerned – maybe her biggest plus – unlike the backwards-thinking idiots Hillary quotes in a New York Magazine article as saying, “I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president,” [Rebecca Traister, “Hillary Clinton vs. Herself,” New York Magazine, 5/30/16, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/hillary-clinton-candidacy.html].  (Still?  Really?  In 2016??  I’m flabbergasted.)  In fact, I believe she’s the best possible choice in the current climate to be our (long overdue) first woman president:  Tangentially part of the “old boy” network and in many ways status quo, a rule follower rather than a breaker, she also doesn’t raise the same kind of concerns about female “weaknesses” (the biological curses of periods and hormones and the primacy of child care and your-place-is-in-the-kitchen bullshit) because she’s of “a certain age” and past all that distraction.  Every time I see that iconic photo of young Hillary, with her dark hair and serious glasses, in college or possibly law school busily organizing a human rights protest or doing some regime-shaking research, it makes me say, “THAT’S the Hillary I want to vote for, that enthusiastic, idealistic young woman in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s who believed anything was possible for a woman if she worked hard enough and said enough of the right words.  You go, Young Hillary!  I’m voting for you NOW, 40 years later!”

And once we elect Hillary, if we can manage to elect a cooperative Congress over the next couple of mid-term cycles, with Hillary in office and a liberal-leaning Congress (with Bernie as our catalyst and spiritual leader), we might be able to bring about some of the progressive changes that are so desperately needed in this country, including fixing the broken government itself.  A revolution from within, if you will.  Let’s do it!

Along those lines, I recently read a thought-provoking Washington Post article [Stephen Prothero, “Why conservatives start culture wars and liberals win them,” Washington Post, 1/29/16, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-conservatives-start-culture-wars-and-liberals-win-them/2016/01/29/f89d0b2c-b658-11e5-a842-0feb51d1d124_story.html?tid=a_inl%5D that actually gave me some hope:

“As I investigated America’s culture wars from Jefferson to Obama, I found that they follow a predictable pattern. They tend to start on the right, with conservatives anxious about some cultural change. Yet conservatives almost always lose, because they lash themselves to lost causes. That’s how this latest round in our culture wars is likely to conclude, too. If you fear (as I do) what a President Trump might do, remember that the promise to build a Mexico-financed border wall or to ban Muslims from entering the country are as lost as causes can be.”

The article ends with a statement that I firmly believe to be true, but which also encapsulates what drives the conservative wing crazy:  “But no matter how this presidential election turns out, the arc of American history should continue to bend toward tolerance and inclusion” (emphasis mine).  That’s exactly what conservatives DO NOT want!  They’d like nothing more than for us as a country to become more insular and exclusive, and to march in lock-step with strict (and, in my mind, wildly misinterpreted) tenets of Christianity or else you’re their enemy and must be quashed.  The LAST thing they want is for America to “continue to bend toward tolerance and inclusion”.  That’s the ultimate lost cause because, at heart, there are many more ways in which humans are alike than different:  We love our families, we want to be free of oppression and strife and, most of all, we want to be happy and safe.