Monday, April 1, 2013

Doggone Dogs: On Acquiring a Dog in Mexico. (Easier than one may think)

"Is there a dead dog over there?" I asked Lisa.  Her lovely home in Jalisco, Mexico has a lot of space including a large covered patio which currently was the (final?) resting place of a strange dog.

Lisa's reply was one of curious scepticism, until she looked over and saw what indeed looked to be a dog on it's side, two of its short legs elevated in the air.  There's certainly no shortage of stray dogs around here but the property is entirely fenced off and it's rare that any would find their way inside.  Perhaps a dying dog would be tempted however, to find a quiet place away from the busy road to die in peace.

We went over to investigate.  The dead dog experience a remarkable recovery and ran away.  I say ran, but really it was more of a waddle.  This dog wasn't dead, but she was pregnant, and evidently had been for a while.  Luckily she ran off.

Lisa and Luis have a dog already, a cute little Cocker Spaniel Puppy.  They got it by mistake.   Their friend and landlord was talking with Lisa about dogs.  He was saying how they'd like a dog but didn't have the space at their personal house, "but look at all this space here!  This property would be perfect for a dog!"  What's more, he knew of a dog who just had puppies.  Lisa agreed and said it would be great to have a dog here, thinking that the landlord wanted to have a dog but keep it at the rental house.  A simple translation problem lead to the confusion.

The miscommunication was later sorted out.  Lisa agreed with Luis that they definitely didn't want a dog of their own.  They decided that they needed to call their friend to let him know about the "change of heart".  The phone call was postponed during the craziness of Christmas time.  Shortly afterwards however, they were saved the trouble of making the call themselves.  Their friend called to let them know he had their dog for them.  It had been in their house for a week now and could they please come and pick her up.  They decided to name her Galleta, Spanish for "cookie".

In the evenings I've enjoyed sitting on the patio reading.  The nights are warm and the stars are bright.  It would be incredibly relaxing except for the fact that Galleta likes to play then.  Playing involves biting at my toes, hands and, if all this fails to get a reaction, my face.  I've been thinking that I would like a dog for some time now so generally I can be tempted to leave my book to chase her around the yard in the soft glow of the patio light.  Two nights in a row I saw a small creature slip off into the night when Galleta and I play in the dark.

A day or two later Lisa and I saw this same pregnant dog hovering around the edge of the property.  I brought a small bowl of food to her and tried to tempt her off the property.  I wanted to feed her but didn't want to encourage her to associate the house with food.  Evidently hungry, she followed closely for a ways and then stopped and went back.  She was in the same area that I saw her the night before, by some assorted detritus leaning against the fence, and I speculated to Lisa that she had her puppies there.  I left the bowl near her and she ate it.

Yesterday we were enjoying Easter lunch when we spotted her.  We explained to friends Juan and Cynthia about her.  Juan later went to the area to look for evidence of a litter  He came back and said that indeed there was a puppy there, but it had died.  She continued to hang around.

This morning, while Lisa was out, I was changing Santiago's diaper, simultaneously trying to clean him up, keep his feet out of the dirty diaper and the Cocker Spaniel puppy from taking the used wipe for a toy, when I spotted movement in my peripheral vision.  It was the little stray puppy who had braved the trip to come up to the house and peek inside.  I finished changing the diaper and rushed outside to chase the dog away.  Can't turn the house into a shelter for all the strays, that's for sure.

I ran out shouting and looking as threatening as possible.  The dog rolled onto her back, looking up submissively, her swollen teats all too evident.  I'm the kid who cried when Bambi's mother died.  I didn't not grow up into the sort of man who can hit a dog who's lying on her back looking up at me like one who expects nothing else.  I poked her with the end of a broom, a trick I learned from little old women in the cartoons.  I went into the house.

Lisa came home and I explained what had happened.  We saw the dog later on.  I barbequed chicken for lunch.  The chickens here are sold with organs and feet included.  I grilled them up and fed them to the dog.  Lisa suggested that since there's almost certainly contact between the stray and Galleta we should throw some flea powder on her.  I agreed.  The instructions said that the powder must be rubbed in so that it gets to the skin.  I followed the instructions.  I can't blame the dog if she felt that she was being petted in an affectionate manner.

I have found myself petting her absentmindedly while sitting reading a book.  I wonder if I'll soon have a fuller understanding of the idiom "lie down with the dogs, get up with the fleas."  Lisa looked at her and proposed that we could name her even if we didn't have intentions of keeping her.  I agreed.  We sat on the patio chairs and looked at her trying to think of a good name.  "Mango!" Lisa submitted.  Instantly I knew that it was a great name.  "Mango Unchained!" I said.  She is, after all, a stray.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam

I just heard on the radio that a new pope has been elected.  As of yet, exactly who has been elected isn't known.  The smoke signals only tell us so much.  I heard that there's a decent possibility that a Canadian cardinal, Marc Ouellet will be the first North American to receive the honour.  The patriotic part of me hopes for this, but on the other hand he's conservative by Catholic Cardinal standards which is quite a few shades too conservative for me.

I understand that it's possible to bet on papal elections.  I'm not one to gamble; I hate losing money far too much but I think that if I were to bet on anything, it would be this.  For one thing, part of the fun would come from the fact that the opportunity comes so intermittently.  For another thing, historically it's been quite difficult to anticipate who will be chosen.  This means, I would think, that there's a better chance of getting a good payout by supporting a dark horse.  I would think that the odds are not going to be quite as accurate as other forms of gambling, such as sports gambling where there's much more historic precedent to base the odds on.  Plus, it seems like a good way to get an idea of what sort of people are in the upper echelons of the Catholic Church.  I'm not sure if such knowledge provides any practical benefit, but it couldn't hurt to know it.

Thinking about this lead me to a rather brilliant and novel novel idea.  The plot would involve a scandal where the mob rigs the papal election in order to cash in on gambling.  Boom.  It seems like a safe bet that today's public would go mad over that plot.  Aspiring writers, you're welcome.

I've included some artwork courtesy of Calvin French.  The text at the bottom reads, "I once was only a cardinal.  Now I am Pope."  Crayon is an underutilized medium among artists, I feel.

I should also mention that the new pope has been announced, formal cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina.  I applaud the liberality of the cardinals in being so bold as to choose not just a non-Italian but a non-European pope.  Glad I didn't vote on this election.  I suspect I would be out some money.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How To Change

I recently read/am reading two books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and What Good is God by Philip Yancey.  Philip Yancey is one of my favourite authors and The Seven Habits is one of my favourite books, one that I'm now reading for the second time.  It was interesting though, because of something I realized only through my concurrent reading of What Good is God.

In it, Yancey describes several different places where Christianity is making a positive difference in peoples' lives.  Maybe my favourite chapter was the one that described Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and the role spirituality plays in their treatment.  One of the steps in the Twelve Step program is admission that you are an alcoholic and that you are unable to overcome alcoholism.  (Perhaps that's two of the steps, I don't know)

In any case, members are instructed to seek help from a higher power in order to stay sober.  Of course not everybody agrees with this mentality.  However, it does a beautiful job of leveling the members.  All come together from a place of weakness and humility.  There is no need for posturing or pretension because everyone is on an equal plane, one of mutual dependence and support.

In The Seven Habits, the reader is implored to self-improvement through personal effort.  In the same way that the alcoholics are urged to change their behaviour during the meetings, the reader is urged to change her behaviour and to adopt the seven habits through force of will.  Success comes from within, rather than from beyond.

The two ideas are diametrically opposed and yet I want to accept them both.  Both have merit.  Both, if taken unrestrictedly, lead to dangerous positions.  There is the risk of accepting a victim's stance if you agree to the alcoholic's inability to change but if you think change comes entirely from within there can be big psychological penalties for failing in one's attempts to change and judgement for those who keep destructive habits.

Well, I've just about lost interest in writing this post.  I just thought it was interesting to see these two ideas side by side.  Makes you wonder.  (Well, makes me wonder at least)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Underwear and Good Living

Yesterday as I was getting dressed I realized that it was time to throw out the pair of boxer shorts I was wearing.  Retiring underwear always follows the same routine.  One day I look down and all of a sudden realize that my underpants are well past their prime.  I never notice the first little hole or two, so finding several large holes always comes as a surprise as if everything deteriorated in one final washing.

These underwear were however, if not special, at least notable.  There are, in my experience, two ways of getting new underwear: they arrive in my stocking at Christmas or I buy them on that day when I realize I don't want to do laundry but nor do I want to wear the same underwear for even another moment.  These underwear did not arrive in either way.  These ones came to me almost miraculously.

One summer while spending time with my sister and brother-in-law Lisa showed them to me and asked if they were mine and had become mixed up in her laundry.  I was certain that they weren't mine but Luis was equally certain they weren't his.  They had just appeared somehow with the rest of Lisa and Luis' laundry.  Lisa told me I could keep them.

Wearing underwear that isn't mine is not something I ever liked the idea of.  However, I do like things that are free.  However, I don't like intimate second hand clothing because, well I don't have to explain do I.  Anyway, I eventually reasoned that my discomfort was mostly in my head.  I've often slept in hotels without a thought of the sheets that have enveloped other slumbering bodies, or even worse, non-slumbering bodies.  I've gone to restaurants and used forks that have been in countless other mouths.  So if those boxers have been washed with lots of detergent in extra hot water, what's the problem?

So I wore them.  I never liked them.  They were always last in my underwear rotation.  First my comfy MEC boxers, then some well-fitting cotton ones, then the ones that are prone to giving me a wedgie and then finally, if there's nothing else available, I'd use these ones.  They were last because, what bothered me more than the fact that they were second hand, was that they were Playboy boxers.  On the front of the elastic was the iconic bunny.

I don't understand why people would want the Playboy's emblem on their clothes.  When I was in Spain I remember often seeing young girls who had Playboy T-shirts and I always thought it was the saddest thing.  Now there are a few things that Hugh Heffner, Playboy's founder, is known for and therefore called to mind by the bunny.  Perhaps these are the images that one wishes to evoke by sporting Playboy clothing.

The first is sex with beautiful young women, many beautiful young women.  I suppose that biology dictates that at a base level, there's something attractive about this.  However, Hugh Heffner is now in his eighties and has continued his playboy lifestyle, sometimes simultaneously having multiple girlfriends who are young enough to be his granddaughters.  Whatever mystique there is about being a playboy suddenly seems like a dirty farce, about as attractive as second-hand underwear.

To a certain extent, Heffner is also famous for luxury living.  He lives in the Playboy Mansion and enjoys the finer things in life.  This for me is more tempting than sleeping around with hordes of lovely nubiles, but it's not what really tempts me about Heffner's lifestyle.

Hugh Heffner is famous for wearing pyjamas all the time.  Silk pyjamas.  Although I wouldn't necessarily say that I want to wear pyjamas all day every day, I know myself well enough to know that it's a habit that I could easily fall into.  I am naturally somewhat lazy and can spend the day undressed and unproductive just through inertia.  I don't like this quality and therefore I often have to talk myself into being more productive.

So, today I throw out my Playboy underwear, gratefully because wearing good underwear is an important first step towards having a good day.  I know that throwing the underwear out won't automatically make me productive but it's a good reminder of what life I don't want to have.  Heffner can try to sell the desirability of his playboy lifestyle but I'm not buying it.

That being said, I should remain mindful of the fact that I didn't buy my Playboy underwear; it just fell into my lap so to say.  I need to make sure that the pyjama lifestyle does not.  (So far I haven't had to worry about either wealth and luxury or beautiful nymphomaniacs falling into my lap.)