The Many Sploots of Murphy McGee

The world is kicking my ass this month. I know there is a lot of that going around, and I’m feeling powerless to help anyone or improve life in general. So… Here are some cute pictures of a puppy.

I learned the word “sploot” recently from some fellow dog lovers. It’s a stretch that some dogs do that looks like a spread eagle splat on the floor. I’d never seen it before we got Murphy but apparently it’s really common with corgis.

It’s so delightful that I find myself taking the same photo of my dog over and over again. Now that we have learned the term, we have started to categorize the types of sploots Murphy tends to land in. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Full Sploot, aka “The Cinnamon Bear Rug”
The Sphinx Sploot
Side Sploot
Posh Sploot
The Look Back
And my favorite, The Burrowing Sploot

Hope you are all hanging in and that you enjoyed this diversion from the clusterfuck that is 2020!

Are All Y’all Okay?

I am obsessed with dogs. I don’t think that’s new information. But I have developed one dog obsessed habit over the years that I haven’t really talked about, which is this: if I see someone walking their dog, I have to turn my head and see the dog, and it has something to do with seeing what kinds of people choose what kinds of dogs. I find that most people are well matched to their dogs, but the more mismatched they are, the more it delights me. Exempli gratia: the biggest gruffest man in the world walking a dog so tiny, white, and puffy that it looks like the puff of a dandelion = my week made.

And so, yesterday, I was driving up the main thoroughfare that leads to my house, and… I saw a man out of my peripheral vision that my brain decided was walking a dog. In retrospect, what my brain registered was a man on the sidewalk with his had at hip level and a line going from his hand to the ground in a very leash like way. However, when I turned my head there was no dog. My eyes followed the line back up to the hands, which were holding a penis. And that’s how I saw a strangers wiener on my street yesterday. And even though I didn’t want any part of that experience, I got a close enough look at the piss stream that the first articulatable thought that went through my mind was, “he seems dehydrated.”

Here’s the crazy part. No, actually… that was the crazy part. But the thing that I keep thinking about is the fact that he was a clean cut silver haired gentleman in a button down shirt and salmon pants. He looked completely not homeless. And he was passing on the sidewalk of a busy street, at 4:30 on a Thursday, very near a secluded parking lot. And yet, he gave no fucks, only urine.

I’m just hung up on the Venm diagram of salmon pants and public urination. I realize, of course, that the percentage of me who would urinate in a public space under certain circumstances is 100%. But when do those circumstances include salmon pants? My instincts tell me there is little overlap there. Obviously my instincts need recalibrating.

Is it the pandemic? Have we all lost our attachments to norms? Has the implied social contract we all hold for one another’s safety and comfort disintegrated so completely in three months?

I’m picturing this salmon pants / street pissing / pandemic Venn diagram, and I see a cartoon rendering of a savage and bug-eyed looking germ each gripping one of those circles. They laughing while pushing them together until they over lap significantly. And in the shaded area of the overlap is a label that reads “the world can go fuck itself.”

My state is starting to open up. My city got the word yesterday that we have gone from “orange” (moderate risk) to “yellow” (low risk). Restaurants are opening patios and people are excited to get out and enjoy the lovely May weather.

I haven’t felt great about it, as our cases of virus as well as the deaths have continued climbing. But now, I have this completely insane data (I realize it is anec-data with a plot point of one, but sometimes that’s all you need) that men, who otherwise would be cast as models in adds for a Vanguard retirement fund, are openly pissing on the sidewalk in broad daylight and that tells me that people are NOT OKAY! And it is NOT SAFE to go out there!

Full disclosure, I’m a total introvert and I’m thoroughly enjoying keeping up with people via Zoom from my basement and if things stayed like this for a while I would probably be just fine. But still. That shit is a bad sign.

PS I know you are wondering and the answer is no: he was not wearing a mask.

Improvising

If everything had gone according to plan, I would be in southern Utah tonight with all my boys, celebrating Wensley’ fifteenth birthday. But Wensley’s kidneys gave out in February. I kept the trip on the books because I’ve been so sad without him and I thought it would be good to get away. Then last week I experienced both my first pandemic and my first earthquake. It was like a biathlon of terror.

After Wensley died, I had been saying that maybe we would get another dog for Christmas, after a good long grieving break. Then school was canceled and Matt, Ethan, and I have been stuck at home getting on each other’s nerves all day. Then I said that if school was canceled for more than the two weeks they originally announced, we would get a dog for Easter. Something to distract us. Then I woke up to a 5.7 earthquake and stumbled through hours of aftershocks as I tried unsuccessfully to focus on work. I went for a walk to calm my nerves and found myself tempted to steal every dog I saw.

So, yeah. We got a puppy on Friday. Nothing is going according to plan right now so I said “fuck it.”

Meet Murphy, the 10 week old Goldendoodle that I found through a friend. He’s a sweetheart and a good monster and sometimes he makes me cry because I still miss my dog terribly and I feel like an unfaithful A hole for getting a new dog less than six weeks after I lost my Wensleydale.

I told my therapist about it yesterday. He was kind and said he was surprised I lasted this long. Then we talked about Murphy as a new chapter, and not a replacement. That reminded me of something I read in a David Sedalia essay once, about the way the lifespan of our pets put a tidy parentheses around eras in our lives. It’s so true. I like thinking of it that way.

This morning I was sad because I realized that today is Wensley’s birthday. Murphy was being adorable and I was resisting his charm, feeling a longing that is unfair to him but articulated itself as a rebuke that said “you aren’t my dog.”

Then he did something that Wensley used to do that I had completely forgotten about. He ran over to his food bowl which I had just filled, took one bit of kibble in his mouth, then ran back to the carpeted area of the room and ate it there. Then he did it again, and again. I don’t know how common that is with puppies, but I always thought it was hilarious when Wensley did it. “Does it taste better when your paws are cushioned?” I used to ask him.

Wensley was my dog. But Murphy is our dog. This new era is off to a weird and wonky start, but it has begun. And Murphy is not a replacement. He’s a new member of the family that belongs in this era. But if he helps remember some joy from the last era, that’s fine too. It wasn’t the plan, but as I’m learning… nothing goes according to plan.

Animal Encounters

Wensleydale has had a rough time this winter. His arthritis is acting up. He had some teeth pulled. And once the snow came he started peeing in a corner of the kitchen rather than asking to go out in the cold.

He’ll be 16 years old in March, which for Yorkshire terriers (the internet tells me), is the equivalent of 80 human years. The site only went up to 17 which made my heart stutter. I had to google “oldest Yorkie” to get some sense of what I could hope for. I found this article about a 26 year old Yorkie who died in a dog attack, which was helpful but distressing at the same time. 26 years is a lot, even for a natural death. I decided to focus on that fact and not the grizzly details of his demise.

We spent the holidays in California with Matt’s family. It worked out that a friend needed a house and pet sitter for our exact days, and they agreed to give us the keys in exchange for keeping their three-legged chihuahua with broken ribs and nerve damage alive. They also have a parakeet-like bird (technically, he is a green cheeked conure) and a half-dozen chickens.

We drove from Utah to California (a 12 hour drive) with Wensley in tow. He’s usually a pretty good traveler, but this time he struggled. Here he is resting comfortably early on in the trip.

Later in the day, he seemed like he couldn’t stay still for mor that a minute or two. He was on my lap as we traversed Donner’s Pass (location of the infamous Donner Party disaster) when Wensley emptied the contents of his bladder directly into my crotch. He peed on me several more times before we reached our destination outside Sacramento. Once I got him inside and he peed on the light tiled floor (and not on my dark jeans) I saw that he was peeing blood. I got him back in the car and rushed him to a 24 hour pet hospital, making an already long day insanely longer.

Wensley had a mild urinary tract infection and the veterinarian gave us antibiotics, but it was well after midnight when we finally went to bed. I changed clothes and went to sleep, leaving the pee soaked laundry in a pile for later.

I stayed behind the next morning when Matt and Ethan joined up with the fam for holiday bonding. I started the washer, gave Wensley a bath, and tried to get the chihuahua to eat something without success. I put the clothes in the drier and turned my attention to the bird, who was shrieking for attention.

I was told I could let him out of his cage and, while he couldn’t fly, he could climb to the top of the cage and see what the people were up to. I decided to try that and it did quiet him. Then I thought I might befriend him with food, even if it didn’t work on the chihuahua who seemed to hate me with an unnatural fire. I cut up a pear and offered a small bite to the little green bird, but instead of taking it, he hopped on my hand, ran up my arm and disappeared in my freshly washed hair. I reached up to move him back to his perch, but every time my fingers got close to him he bit me. Hard.

I took a selfie and sent it to Matt, explaining what happened. “I can’t get him off so I guess he lives here now.”

Not sure what else to do, I sat on the couch and waited for the drier to buzz. I pulled up a podcast and tried to forget that I had allowed my body to become a bird house and tree combo. Once I settled on the couch, however, the bird decided to explore my branches.

He ran back and forth across my clavicle a few times. Then he stepped down onto my right breast and, after a cautious few steps, began to bounce on it, like it was a double mattress at a Motel 6. I reached up to make him stop and he bit me and ran back into my hair.

“Asshole,” I said. “I just got #metooed by a goddamn parrot. Worst. Christmas. Ever!”

The clothes finished and Matt came back to rescue me. Together we got the mean little bird back in his cage and I was free. The rest of the pet sitting part of the trip was uneventful. I gave the animals their space and they gave me mine. Wensley didn’t befriend anyone, either. But he has completely recovered from his UTI.

That’s really the end of the story, but just for fun here are some photos I took from a separate animal encounter, back in Utah, shortly after New Year’s. It was Owl Day at the Bear River Bird Refuge and I got to meet these two cuties.

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Then we took a drive around the refuge and I took pictures of hawks. These two turned out the best.

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I have always loved raptors and have a fantasy of getting into falconry some day, maybe when I’m retired. I’m sure having a bird of prey would be completely different than having a flightless conure or parakeet, but this one experience has left me less excited about my fantasy. After all, if a red tail hawk decided to trampoline my tits, I might bleed to death!

Might be best to invest in a longer lens and stick with photography. That way I can stay in my car, where it is safe.

He is Pretty Orange

Wensleydale got a shot at the vet this morning. When I brought him home I tried to make him a special treat by combining his two favorite things: peanut butter and carrots. Only something weird happened.

Maybe I’m just watching too much political coverage these days, but do you see what I see?

I swear, I cannot get away from that man!

Wensleydale did not notice. He is now napping with his lobster, Pinchy.

Meanwhile, the carrot is currently being impeached in Wensley’s stomach. He will convict sometime tomorrow.

Shabby Chic

Wensley had to get a haircut last week.  I try to avoid cutting his hair in January and February because it is so dang cold, and he doesn’t deal well with the snow.  It couldn’t wait, however.  He was getting a bit of a Rastafarian situation on his back end, and it was time.

I brought him home from the groomer and dug through the winter accessories to dig out his sweater.  I knitted this for him a few years ago.  (There is no pattern to share; I just knitted a rectangle and fashioned it around his body and then sewed it up.)  Unfortunately, when I pulled it over his little body, I realized the moths had been at it.

Obviously, Wensley doesn’t care.  He doesn’t love wearing sweaters and would be happy to feed the whole thing to the moths of the world.  But he stopped shivering once he had it on, and that was the important thing.

I was reminded of a story that David Sedaris wrote in When you Are Engulfed in Flames, where he buys a $400 cashmere sweater but finds it is too nice to wear.  He pays a professional designer to “distress” it.  Extremely distressed.  He writes, “Ordinarily I avoid things that have been distressed, but this sweater had been taken a step further and ruined.  Having been destroyed, it is now indestructible, meaning I can wear it without worry.”

This is not a cashmere sweater, but it was handmade.  That took a little time.  I never felt it was too nice for the dog, clearly.  But I used to take it off before I sent him outside to pee.  Not anymore!  Now Wensley can keep it on and stave off the shivers even while making yellow snow, sweater be damned!

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Deck the Howls

This is how I decorate for Halloween:

This is how my neighbors decorate:

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To be honest, they are in a different neighborhood but I couldn’t think of a word for someone else that lives in your city but not on your block.  Citymate? Neighboring-neighbor? I dunno.  But I think of them as the owners of the Halloween House and I have to go by to see what they have come up with every year.  (I’ve blogged about them a time or two before.)  I think this is my favorite so far; they have really outdone themselves.  One of these days I need to stop when someone is in the yard.  I have so many questions!  Mostly to do with budget and storage.

To be a little more honest, I have one more Halloween decoration.  It is five feet tall (just shorter than I am) and it looks like this:

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The dogs’ names are (from left to right) Zero, Maxwell Silver-hammer, and Queequeg.  (I name everything, by the way.  I originally named the parrot and cat skeletons Polly and Pyewacket, but only to myself.  Then, on a whim, I asked Ethan what he thought their names should be and he said, without hesitation, “Pierical,” pointing at the parrot, and “Port Jackson,” pointing at the cat.  So, obviously, those are their names now. He said he didn’t know where he got the ideas for his names but clearly we were both feeling the letter “P.”)  I bought the inflatable dogs last year after the fellas moved in because I wanted to make sure we had a fun yard for Ethan and the neighborhood kids.  And also because, dogs.

Months later, long after Halloween, one of my neighbors stopped me to say hi and she mentioned the big dogs.  She said that her daughter loved them.  “And I mean, she loved them.  One day, we came home and they were deflated and she started to cry.  ‘They’re dead! ‘They’re dead!’ I couldn’t console her!”

“Oh, I’m sorry! I was unplugging it during the day to save power.  But you know, they are ghost dogs.  So, technically, they were dead the whole time.”

My neighbor responded with that blank look that translates as a reminder to socially awkward people to avoid face to face contact in the future.

At any rate, they are back up for the holiday.  And I haven’t unplugged them this year.  Not even once.

The Introvert at the Party; an exploration in Haiku

Introverted girl
at a social gathering
trying not to cling

Releasing Matt’s arm
I take a deep breath and wander
deeper in the house

Determined to learn
from the mistakes of my past:
don’t drink all the wine!

What is the most time
I can hide in the toilet
before eyebrows raise?

Do I look social
crossing the room with purpose
looking for “someone”?

Hovering over
the table of finger foods
not sure what to do

It’s called ‘finger food’
but do I use a napkin?
What’s the proper way?

And then what happens?
If I put it in my mouth
I will get a question

From someone or other.
I’ll stand there, mouth full of cheese…
happens every time.

Better to slip it
quickly into my pocket
for later, alone.

Time to venture off;
initiate a friendship…
thank God, there’s a dog!

Check the time, dear Christ!
How can that be possible?
It’s six forty five.

Cross the room again:
bathroom appetizer time.
It’ll be a long night.

The Perils of Being a Knitter’s Dog


    Especially the kind who reaches for their camera before saving you…