24/7 three sixty five, puppy stays on my mind

I’m not even going to apologize for being absent from blogging, at this point, you and I both know it’s a hollow apology.

It’s been just under two weeks since we received our puppy to foster for a service dog organization, and I am starting to really understand the meaning of “give your life to the cause”.  Because it’s a puppy, which is essentially a furry, mobile infant with razor sharp teeth.  I don’t want kids!  It should have been a reasonable extrapolation that I wouldn’t really like a puppy either, but hindsight, as they say, passes all its optometry tests.

Frog Chew

A peaceful pup – for now.

That’s not to say I haven’t been excited and jazzed to be doing this, both because puppies are cute and because I strongly support service animals for mental and cognitive disorders.  But I’m also not going to lie – I’ve cried from sheer frustration a few times. Puppies are very naughty – and very smart.  I was outwitted by a dog several times.  A dog that is essentially a toddler, no less.  He’d bite me, so I’d move away calmly.  GREAT because what he really wanted to do was bite the couch, which I was sitting in front of! What a totally clever and infuriating trick.

I’ve never had a dog before, and while cats can be destructive little shits, they don’t usually seem so determined about it.  Getting Minnow to refocus on a scratching post rather than the wallpaper took a few days, for example.

Minnow

Minnow, high on her ivory tower of cat superiority.

It’s hard in the heat of the moment to remember a few things, such as a) depression really skews your mental perception of self, and being a total control freak seals the deal, and b) there has been a pretty good list of small victories that I need to continue remembering.  Not to mention, Chris has been very accommodating in sharing pee/poop excursion duties while I snatch a nap or a shower, and more than ever now I’m back in the office.  (Sad trombone at my hopes of getting some writing done on my holidays, though!)

I don’t intend to turn this blog into a running tally of “Ways I’m NOT Fucking up This Dog’s Life” but not losing perspective is still worthwhile.

victory the first: adorable sleep poses

victory the first: adorable sleep poses

For example, since two weeks ago:

  • he’s been quiet at night in his crate since day 3, and this morning was the first day I got to wake up to my alarm.  He hasn’t had an accident in his crate since the fourth day.
  • he can go up the stairs to the front door, making the potty dance a lot more noticeable. today, he went down the stairs for the first time!
  • he played very nicely with a friend’s most excellent dog, and learned when “I don’t like to play” body language means to back off.
  • he sits before the door to go outside or inside.
  • he sits inside the crate before we let him out.
  • he has “sit”, “watch me” and the leave-it noise (kissy face) down 100% – when he’s focused and not intent on destroying my fingers or the couch, anyway.
He also sleeps a lot.

He also sleeps a lot.

I don’t think I’ve ever done something that’s required me to be so relentlessly positive which has been harder than anything else combined.  Having a glass face is bad enough when you’re dealing with people; with a dog, it’s damn near impossible.  I’ve seen other puppy raisers at the training classes who are training two dogs simultaneously (usually one young, one ~ a year old), and after spending some time with our friend’s dog, I can better believe they find it simpler.  The young dog will more easily follow the first dog’s lead than your own.  While that seems counter intuitive, your older dog will sit, leave it, etc, when you say the cues, and your younger dog will sit, leave it, etc when your older dog does and learn the cues that way.

… okay no, I’m not getting a second dog. one is plenty. 

lovey eyes

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Yes, Virginia, There Is Misogyny (and It Kills Women)

A brief thought exercise for media and people ignoring the fact that UCSB shooter was driven to kill by his hatred of and sense of entitlement towards women (all text taken from the posted manifesto on Scribd; h/t to wehuntedthemammoth for highlighting some of the quotes I used below).  Needless as it may be to say, trigger warning for graphic hatred of women and depictions of violence against them:

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Goat Simulator is So Important

I want to take a sec and thank everyone on Facebook, Twitter and here for their support during the aftermath of Gary’s death.  It hit both me and Chris really hard, and even people from around the globe who’d gotten used to me posting his mug all over the place were saddened by the loss. Even a month later, I’m still really struggling to cope, but I can mostly write about it without crying now, so if you want or need to talk to someone about their first experience with losing a beloved pet, I’m your gal.

But the past month wasn’t all bad.  You know what I’m talking about. Goat. Simulator.

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It was the blurst of times?: Twitch Plays Pokemon & Infinite Monkey Theorem

Unless you’ve been surfing the internet the past week from a cave on Mars, with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears, you’ve got at least a passing familiarity with Twitch Plays Pokemon. If not, a brief summary: someone decided to stream Pokemon Red/Blue via Twitch tv, and program it so that chat commands (up, down, left, right, a, b, select) correspond to the player character’s movements in game.  Basically:

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What’s exciting about this is, aside from the hours of entertainment watching Red navigate Giovanni’s tower maze, is that the program essentially allows us to watch and participate in a simplified version of the infinite monkey theorem.  Not only that, since someone set up a competing stream called RNG Plays Pokemon, we can compare how the keyboard smashing gestalt of 80K humans hammering away compares to a computer controlling it all.  (Sort of: Twitch is playing Red/Blue, while RNG is playing Silver).  All the same, gestalt beats singularity by 1 badge currently.

Obviously, with only 6 key presses to complete a game compared to the infinite monkey theorem of 26 key presses to complete a play, we’re looking at probability many magnitudes larger in favour of Twitch.  Plus, to be fair to the monkeys, they’re probably not as familiar with Hamlet as most of the under-40 set is with Pokemon.  Even so, completing simple tasks in Pokemon has been taking anywhere from hours to days. The length of time required to watch until something significant happens is so prohibitive, it’s baffling in its popularity.

At some point, the creator added in a new form of play in addition to the chaos of the PC responding to every keypress, called democracy.

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Players vote by either typing in “anarchy” or “democracy” into chat to move the bar in one direction or another. Democracy mode only moves the character after a key has received a certain number of votes within a 20 sec period – for example, if ten people type “down”, and five type “up”, the character will move down.  It’s slower, but progress is surer.  A lot of viewers (myself included) feel that anarchy mode is the purer method of play.  Think of it as a Nuzlocke challenge for thousands of people at the same time. Released your Charmander? Tough nuts, only Pidgeot can save you now.

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Art by vgstorytime.tumblr.com

Here’s the really fascinating thing about TPP, though.  Not only is the game progressing, but people are weaving in narratives and stories relating to the canonical journey of the player character.  The aforementioned release of Charmander (nicknamed “Abby”), really did happen.  An attempt was made to evolve an Eevee into a Vaporeon to enable Red to use surf, but due to a series of unfortunate spending events, he was unable to acquire a water stone, and they ended up with Flareon instead. When trying to deposit Flareon to withdraw another pokemon capable of using surf, Abby was released, and the myth passed into legend:

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Image by walrusmanipulator.tumblr.com

The Helix Fossil, due to its inability to be used or thrown away, gained a great deal of favour, as did the Moon stone.

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The deep-seated philosophical urge to narrate the progression of Red in the game echoes the concept of existential angst, as Sartre saw it, where human recognition of the utter indifference of situations and objects.  There’s no sense of consciousness in them, which can cause great distress to the soul.  We might not think of it so much when looking at a stapler, but it’s certainly present when gazing out at the infinitely expanding universe – a panicky fluttering of uselessness.

Some of this is alleviated by the nature of the game – there is a defining end, a sense of accomplishment in beating the game. (Whether that’s beating the elite four, or catching every pokemon varies from player to player.) despite the fact that most of the situations in the game result in no proper “progression”, so to speak, there is still a heady sense of freedom in being that dick who types “down” instead of “up” to consult the Helix Fossil. Again.

But all of those individual situations of themselves are not linked in any meaningful way.  They’re the immediate expressions of actions taken by others, and expressed through an object (in this case, a computer program.) In between watching Red circle loops through Team Rocket HQ, there’s still a powerful need to extract meaning through connecting these actions via narrative.  Hence, False Prophet, Bird Jesus, and so on.

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It’s also hell on a date (courtesy of xkcd.com)

Twitch plays pokemon is fascinating because it’s an 8-bit representation of all that German philosophical bullshit about the nature of being that you strained to wrap your head around in undergrad. How do we tell our stories? What is the meaning of our lives in a cold, uncaring universe? When we’re on our deathbeds, we can look back at the journey, all the ledges we fell of off, the hours spent in a dark elevator alone, and say to ourselves, “At least we beat Blue.”

In Pidgeot’s name, amen.

Where, O death, is your sting?

I have a very pragmatic view of death.  I’m not afraid of death, or being dead.  Dying is maybe another story, but I suppose you can file the process of dying under the folder of grievous injury until it becomes fatal injury.

I’ll admit that I cheat.  Christianity is pretty straightforward about death.  When asked once during a counselling intake exam if I had suicidal thoughts, I told the on-duty nurse, “Does hoping for the return of Jesus and the end of the world count?” (I never did get an answer!)  So when people ask or worry about what happens when you die, I’ve got a ready made answer in my pocket.  More obnoxiously, I truly believe it.

My paternal grandmother died while I was on my honeymoon after getting married.  The hardest part about that was being unable to make it to her funeral.  My paternal grandfather died some years later, and the hardest part was I had never been to a funeral before, and seeing everyone suffering.  My maternal grandmother died – same deal as the last one. I felt like a huge callous asshole because the process was sad but I was enjoying being able to see my cousins all together for the first time in a long time and meet their kids.  I would hope I’m never the kind of asshole who would say things like “She’s in a better place now.” But I did feel that way, and there’s very little grief in the passing of someone who’s old and had a long, interesting life full of love and family and friends.

So, why on earth, after all that, do I lose my proverbial (and sometimes, thanks to stomach-churning stress, literal) ever-loving shit every time Gary gets sick?

Animals are cool creatures in the theological sense.  They don’t need to be saved, or baptised or receive communion because a) they’re animals, they can’t talk and can’t freely consent and b) they don’t have to because in God’s eyes, they’re just dandy already. In the Garden of Eden, supposedly everything, even the lions and sharks?? i guess, ate grass and were besties with the prey animals they would eat after the fall.

“Will Gary eat grass in heaven?” I fret out loud one day.

“I dunno, I’m not sure you have to eat there.”  said the systematic theologian in the house.

Animals typically have shorter lives than humans, unless you’ve invested in a parrot (then God help your dumb soul).  I’d walk home from work, kicking snow and frowning angrily that I’d have to wait dozens of years before being reunited with my beloved cat after he died.  I’d run through checklists of things to do to keep myself from going totally insane: cremation & an urn so we don’t have to leave his body behind if we move, see if I can get an ink stamp of his paw prints for a possible tattoo, etc.

What was my problem? I’d seen three grandparents into the grave with hardly a wobble. I have tokens to remember them all by that I cherish but I’ve mostly let go and trust we’ll see each other again someday. By the same argument, Gary’s had a long life too (at 11-12 years old, he’s nearly 65! Of course, with 40 being the new 30, that’s still young, I suppose.)  Poor Colonel Meow died at age 3 – barely middle aged.

My brain stuttered on the good life part.  Was it a good life? He got regular meals, and cuddles, and a warm house to live in, but he also had to share space with a bossy cat and a neurotic one.  He was sick a lot.  Over the years with us, he has slowly lost weight and is currently the cat equivalent of your grandmother shrinking to 4 feet tall.  We’ve had to stuff a lot of nasty things in his mouth to cure UTIs, IBD and more.  There are probably some brain problems he’s always had that we could never fix.

The problem, I started realizing the day I was in the grocery store, browsing for human foods that were safe for kitties to try and fatten him up, was one of stewardship.  I wasn’t responsible for my grandparents.  I didn’t have to think about their care and feeding, their health.  I was responsible for this greasy little beast and I think I’ve failed him.  I mean, look at me: loaded down with plain chicken baby food, high-calorie cat goop, raised bowls in case his stomach acid is bothering him when he eats.  This is the guilty panic of a parent who keeps missing their’s kids hockey game.

Having identified the problem calmed me down some in the days since I figured this all out, with Chris’ help.  In the meantime, Gary’s also had a fairly successful checkup at the vet since his tests indicated his guts are, as I tried to explain to my boss, “all fucked up inside”.  He’s on an exciting regimen of vitamins, anti-biotics, and steroids, and regular check-ins with our most excellent vet. I’m not all the way okay, but I’m on my way there, and I’m pleased to say that Gary’s energy and appetite has gotten much better in the past week.  He was so full of pep he gave me a ferocious bite yesterday trying to pill him.  Thanks for the blood blister, little man.

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aw, i can’t stay mad at this face

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.