Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving

Packing all of your belongings into a U-Haul and then transporting them across several states is nearly as stressful and futile as trying to run away from lava in swim fins.  

I know this because my boyfriend Duncan and I moved from Montana to Oregon last month.  But as harrowing as the move was for us, it was nothing compared to the confusion and insecurity our two dogs had to endure.  

Our first dog is - to put it delicately - simple-minded.  Our other dog is a neurotic German shepherd mix with agonizingly low self-esteem who has taken on the role of "helper dog" for our simple dog.  Neither dog is well-equipped with coping mechanisms of any kind.  

When we started packing, the helper dog knew immediately that something was going on.  I could tell that she knew because she becomes extremely melodramatic when faced with even a trivial amount of uncertainty.  She started following me everywhere, pausing every so often to flop to the ground in an exaggeratedly morose fashion - because maybe that would make me realize how selfish I was being by continuing to pack despite her obvious emotional discomfort.     

When the soul-penetrating pathos she was beaming at me failed to prevent me from continuing to put things in boxes, the helper dog became increasingly alarmed.  Over the ensuing few days, she slowly descended into psychological chaos.  The simple dog remained unfazed. 

Unfortunately for the helper dog, it took us nearly a week to get everything packed up.  By the time we were ready to begin the first part of our two-day journey to Oregon, she seemed almost entirely convinced that she was going to die at any moment.  She spent the entire car ride drooling and shaking uncontrollably.  

But the simple dog seemed to enjoy the trip. 

Even though she threw up seven times. 

She actually seemed to like throwing up.  To the simple dog, throwing up was like some magical power that she never knew she possessed - the ability to create infinite food.  I was less excited about the discovery because it turned my dog into a horrible, vomit-making perpetual motion machine.  Whenever I heard her retch in the backseat, I had to pull over as quickly as possible to prevent her from reloading her stomach and starting the whole cycle over again.  

But as far as the simple dog was concerned, it was the best, most exciting day of her life.  

It wasn't until we stopped for the night in Umatilla that the simple dog became aware that there was any reason for her to feel anxious.  But at around two o'clock in the morning, the simple dog finally realized that something was different and maybe she should be alarmed.

This particular dog is not anywhere near the gifted spectrum when it comes to solving problems.  In fact, she has only one discernible method of problem solving and it isn't even really a method. 

But making high-pitched noises won't solve your problem if your problem is a complete inability to cope with change.  Unfortunately for everyone involved, the simple dog did not understand this concept and she went right ahead and made an interminable amount of noise that was just invasive enough to make sleeping impossible. 

After an hour of failed attempts at comforting the simple dog, her constant, high-pitched emergency-distress-signal became a huge problem.  

I tried to communicate my displeasure to the simple dog, but communicating with the simple dog usually goes like this:

She was going to make that sound forever if she felt it was necessary.  We tried everything from spooning her to locking her in the bathroom, but none of it was even the slightest bit effective.  

The simple dog made the noise all through the night and was still going strong the next morning. When we were loading the dogs into the car, the constant, high-pitched sound emanating from the simple dog finally broke the helper dog.  The helper dog wailed in anguish, which alarmed the simple dog.  In her surprise, the simple dog let out a yelp, which further upset the helper dog.  And so it continued in a wretched positive-feedback loop of completely unnecessary noise.

When we finally arrived at our new house, the dogs had calmed down considerably.  Unfortunately, it had snowed the night before and there was still snow on our front lawn, and that was enough to catapult both dogs back into hysteria.  

The simple dog had either never experienced snow or she'd forgotten that she knew what it was, because when we let her out of the car, she walked around normally for about seven seconds, then she noticed the snow and her feeble little mind short-circuited.

At first, the simple dog was excited about the snow.  She started prancing around the yard like she was the star of a one-dog parade - her recent personal crisis overshadowed by a haze of enthusiasm. 

The prancing turned to leaping and the leaping turned to running chaotically in stupid little circles. Then she just stopped and stared at the ground.  There was a visible shift in her demeanor as she realized that she didn't understand snow and it was everywhere and she should probably be scared of it. She started making the noise again. 

Not surprisingly, the helper dog interpreted the snow as a sign of her imminent demise.  But she was so exhausted from worrying about all of the other signs of her demise that she just gave up and accepted her death.  She peered up at us, half-buried in the snow.  Her eyes were filled with pain and helplessness, as if she thought we had summoned the snow for the sole purpose of making her sad.

We decided that it would probably be best to bring the dogs inside.  

As a condition for allowing us to have dogs in our rental house, our landlady made us promise that we wouldn't let the dogs scratch the wood floors.  We didn't anticipate it being a problem because it hadn't been in the past, but as soon as our dogs set foot in the house, they morphed into perfectly engineered floor-destroying machines.  They started sprinting as fast as they could for absolutely no reason - skittering around in circles to avoid running into the walls.  

We finally corralled them in the bedroom and shut the door to give ourselves a little time to regroup and come up with a plan.  Until we could get some rugs or convince the dogs that it was unnecessary to sprint around chaotically for no reason, we would need to find some way to prevent them from scratching the floors.  What we ended up doing was going to the pet store and buying two sets of sled dog booties. It was the only way.

It is easy to imagine that a dog who has recently experienced a dramatic upheaval of its formerly safe and predictable life might not react well to suddenly having strange objects attached to all four of its feet.  This was most definitely the case with the booties.

The helper dog panicked and started trying to rip the booties off with her teeth. 

I scolded her and she reacted as if I'd ruined her entire life. 

But at least her immobilizing self-pity kept her from chewing the booties off.

The simple dog just stood there and looked at me in a way that would suggest she didn't realize her legs still worked.

They had to wear the booties for two days.  Those two days were filled with the most concentrated display of overemotional suffering I have ever witnessed.  The simple dog spent most of her time standing in the middle of the room looking bewildered and hurt and the helper dog refused to walk, instead opting to flop her way around the house like a dying fish.  

The entire ordeal was punctuated by the simple dog's high-pitched confusion alarm. 

We were beginning to think that our dogs were permanently broken. Nothing we did helped at all to convince the dogs that we had only changed houses and our new house was not, in fact, some sort of death-camp and we weren't actually planning on killing them to fulfill an organ harvest ritual.  Despite our best efforts, they continued to drift around in a sea of confusion and terror, pausing only to look pitiful. 

But while we were unpacking, we found a squeaky toy that was given to us as a gift shortly before we moved.  We offered the toy to the dogs.  This may have been a mistake. 

Upon discovering that the toy squeaked when it was compressed forcefully, the simple dog immediately forgot that she'd ever experienced doubt or anxiety ever in her life.  She pounced on the toy with way more force than necessary, over and over and over.  The logic behind her sudden change in outlook was unclear.   

But at least she was happy again. 

A News Update, a Dramatic Montage and a Video Animation

My friend Colin made a fantastic animation based on one of my old posts:

I'm pretty sure Colin would be totally pumped to get some recognition for his hard work, so if you're feeling helpful, you can go over to Newgrounds and rate the video and/or leave a comment.  If you're confused about how to rate things on Newgrounds, go here.  I have provided a handy screenshot with a giant yellow arrow and some helpful instructions.

In other news, I recently moved to Bend, Oregon because it is quite possibly the best place on earth and just breathing the air here is like huffing joy and celebration.  The bad news is that I've been busy using my shriveled, little t-rex arms in a mismatched battle with heavy boxes and furniture.

Perhaps the exhaustion and feelings of physical inadequacy involved in the move caused me to be slightly more vulnerable than usual, but a few days ago, I wrote this post.  Which I promptly buried below my other posts because it is shameful and it could possibly be interpreted in a way that would make me look like an alcoholic.  

Anyway, I'm working on a new post and, despite signs to the contrary, I'm not beginning an agonizing retreat into a life of substance abuse and failure.  In fact, just this morning, I ate fruit, drew a picture of my dog and then later waved pleasantly at a person passing by on the street.  Is that something that a despondent, irreversibly damaged drunk would do?  Kapow. Totally logical and irrefutable rebuttal to your possible doubts.

The God of Cake

My mom baked the most fantastic cake for my grandfather's 73rd birthday party. The cake was slathered in impossibly thick frosting and topped with an assortment of delightful creatures which my mom crafted out of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks.  To a four-year-old child, it was a thing of wonder - half toy, half cake and all glorious possibility.

But my mom knew that it was extremely important to keep the cake away from me because she knew that if I was allowed even a tiny amount of sugar, not only would I become intensely hyperactive, but the entire scope of my existence would funnel down to the singular goal of obtaining and ingesting more sugar.  My need for sugar would become so massive, that it would collapse in upon itself and create a vacuum into which even more sugar would be drawn until all the world had been stripped of sweetness.  

So when I managed to climb onto the counter and grab a handful of cake while my mom's back was turned, an irreversible chain reaction was set into motion.   

I had tasted cake and there was no going back.  My tiny body had morphed into a writhing mass of pure tenacity encased in a layer of desperation.  I would eat all of the cake or I would evaporate from the sheer power of my desire to eat it. 

My mom had prepared the cake early in the day to get the task out of the way.  She thought she was being efficient, but really she had only ensured that she would be forced to spend the whole day protecting the cake from my all-encompassing need to eat it.  I followed her around doggedly, hoping that she would set the cake down - just for a moment.  


My mom quickly tired of having to hold the cake out of my reach. She tried to hide the cake, but I found it almost immediately. She tried putting the cake on top of the refrigerator, but my freakish climbing abilities soon proved it to be an unsatisfactory solution.

Her next attempt at cake security involved putting the cake in the refrigerator and then placing a very heavy box in front of the refrigerator's door.  

The box was far too heavy for me to move.  When I discovered that I couldn't move the box, I decided that the next best strategy would be to dramatically throw my body against it until my mom was forced to move it or allow me to destroy myself.  

Surprisingly, this tactic did not garner much sympathy. 

I went and played with my toys, but I did not enjoy it.  

I had to stay focused. 

I played vengefully for the rest of the afternoon. All of my toys died horrible deaths at least once. But I never lost sight of my goal.

My mom finally came to get me. She handed me a dress and told me to put it on because we were leaving for the party soon. I put the dress on backwards just to make her life slightly more difficult.

I was herded into the car and strapped securely into my car seat.  As if to taunt me, my mom placed the cake in the passenger seat, just out of my reach.  

We arrived at my grandparents' house and I was immediately accosted by my doting grandmother while my mom walked away holding the cake.  

I could see my mom and the cake disappearing into the hallway as I watched helplessly.  I struggled against my grandmother's loving embrace, but my efforts were futile.  I heard the sound of a door shutting and then a lock sliding into place.  My mom had locked the cake in the back bedroom.  How was I going to get to it now?  I hadn't yet learned the art of lock-picking and I wasn't nearly strong enough to kick the door in.  It felt as though all my life's aspirations were slipping away from me in a landslide of tragedy.  How could they do this to me?  How could they just sit there placidly as my reason for living slowly faded from my grasp?  I couldn't take it.  My little mind began to crumble.  

And then, right there in my grandmother's arms, I lapsed into a full-scale psychological meltdown. My collective frustrations burst forth from my tiny body like bees from a nest that had just been pelted with a rock.  

It was unanimously decided that I would need to go play outside until I was able to regain my composure and stop yelling and punching.  I was banished to the patio where I stood peering dolefully through the sliding glass door, trying to look as pitiful as possible.

I knew the cake was locked securely in the bedroom, but if I could just get them to let me inside... maybe.  Maybe I could find a way to get to it.  After all, desperation breeds ingenuity.  I could possibly build an explosive device or some sort of pulley system.  I had to try.  But at that point, my only real option was to manipulate their emotions so they'd pity me and willfully allow me to get closer to the cake. 

When my theatrics failed to produce the desired results, I resorted to crying very loudly, right up against the glass.  

I carried on in that fashion until my mom poked her head outside and, instead of taking pity on me and warmly inviting me back inside as I had hoped, told me to go play in the side yard because I was fogging up the glass and my inconsolable sobbing was upsetting my grandmother.  

I trudged around to the side of the house, glaring reproachfully over my shoulder and thinking about how sorry my mom would be if I were to die out there.  She'd wish she would have listened. She'd wish she had given me a piece of cake.  But it would be too late.  

But as I rounded the corner, the personal tragedy I was constructing in my imagination was interrupted by a sliver of hope.  

Just above my head, there was a window.  On the other side of that particular window was the room in which my mom  had locked the cake.  The window was open.

The window was covered by a screen, but my dad had shown me how to remove a screen as a preemptive safety measure in case I was  trapped in a fire and he couldn't get to me and I turned out to be too stupid to figure out how to kick in a screen to escape death by burning. 

I clambered up the side of the house and pushed the screen with all my strength.   

It gave way, and suddenly there I was - mere feet from the cake, unimpeded by even a single obstacle.

I couldn't fully believe what had just occurred.  I crept slowly - reverently - toward the cake, my body quivering with anticipation.  It was mine.  All mine.

I ate the entire cake.  At one point, I remember becoming aware of the oppressive fullness building inside of me, but I kept eating out of a combination of spite and stubbornness.  No one could tell me not to eat an entire cake - not my mom, not Santa, not God - no one.  I would eat cake whenever I damn well pleased.  It was my cake and everyone else could go fuck themselves. 


Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my mother suddenly noticed that she hadn't heard my tortured sobbing in a while.  

She became concerned because it was unusual for my tantrums to stop on their own like that, so she went looking for me.

When she couldn't find me anywhere, she finally thought to unlock the bedroom door and peek inside. 

And there I was.

I spent the rest of the evening in a hyperglycemic fit, alternately running around like a maniac and regurgitating the multi-colored remains of my conquest all over my grandparents' carpet.  I was so miserable, but my suffering was small compared to the satisfaction I felt every time my horrible, conniving mother had to watch me retch up another rainbow of sweet, semi-digested success: this is for you, mom.  This is what happens when you try to get between me and cake - I silently challenged her to try again to prevent me from obtaining something I wanted.  Just once.  Just to see what would happen.  It didn't matter how violently ill I felt, in that moment, I was a god - the god of cake - and I was unstoppable. 

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