Old Dogs, New Tricks

Animal shelters far and wide have been emptied as people rush to foster pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs old and young have found, at worst, a temporary – and presumably, loving sanctuary… and at best, a foster-fail situation (that’s when the foster family adopts the animal themselves because they loved it so much they didn’t want to see it go).  Although most of the stories I’ve seen have been centered around dogs, one can only hope that cats are feeling the same outpouring of compassion. This got me thinking about pet adoption in general. Although, to be fair, it doesn’t take much to get me thinking about pet adoption (which is why I’ve always had so many animals!).

­Not everyone of course, but in general, when people are looking to adopt, they always seem to go for the animals that are the cutest, and the youngest. The little doe-eyed beagle tripping over his ears while running after his sibling. Or that rambunctious little long-haired kitten batting whimsically at that larger-than-it-is ball of yarn while two other little cuties follow it back and forth in their cage.

But what about the older or the not so cute dogs or cats? Maybe a one-eyed pug, or a cat with half a tail. Sure, they might need a little extra care, but what else were you going to do with your life? Something boring, I’m sure, and nothing as emotionally satisfying as saving your new best friend.

People tend to think that older animals come with “baggage,” but seriously, who doesn’t? Not to mention, have these folks ever even tried to housetrain a puppy? Or get thru puppyhood with all their shoes and other household items intact? I know I’ve lost a pillow set or two, and one time, even a chair, in my years of raising fur babies.

Don’t even get me started about kittens that tear up the curtains learning to climb. Or finding all the aglets on my shoes nibbled on. (Fun fact: it wasn’t too long ago that I learned an aglet is the little plastic piece on the end of your shoelace. Knowledge is power, stay thirsty my friends.) Or searching for that lost kitten who found its way behind the cabinets or into the ceiling (true story).

My daughter found a kitten in the stairwell of our condo building a few months ago. Of course, being her mother’s daughter, she brought it into our home. We took the wayward waif (a girl, by the way) to the vet, had her checked for a microchip (nope), and then started canvassing our building and the surrounding buildings looking for an owner. I may have said this before, but I need another pet like I need a hole in my head, no matter how cute they may be, so trust me when I say, our search was thorough. The owner was duly found the next day – they were ecstatic to have her back in the fold (not so ecstatic about my microchip lecture, I’m sure), and all was right with the world once more. However, this foray into unexpected kitten-sitting reminded me that babies are hard. They’re nerve-wracking and exhausting and you worry about what they’re getting into. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a kitten in the house, and I had forgotten just how much trouble they get into. They’re either on or they’re off, there’s no in-between. And when they’re on, you have to be on your toes. All. The. Time.

Sometimes there are good reasons to go for a younger animal and I’m not judging anyone who prefers to start from scratch when adding a new member to their family.  I’m just saying, consider your other choices.  Sure, older animals might come with some emotional baggage, as I said, but let’s face it, so do we. The truth is, they just want love and security and a place to call their forever home, but then again, so do we.

Bonus: in many cases, the older generation already knows how to play fetch or has their running game on point for that morning jog you like to take, or they’re already the perfect couch potato for that Netflix lifestyle you’ve got going on.

Not to mention, you’ll be counteracting what their previous owners did by dumping them, so there’s a bit of karmic brownie points there to be had. And who doesn’t need extra brownie points in life? Plus, older animals, like older people, still have a lot of life in them, so don’t overlook them … you might be missing out on the friendship of a lifetime.

The Problem with Convenience

When did you first notice that you might be getting, well, a bit lazy? Was it when you sat in your home full of voice-activated robots electronics and asked them to play your music for you? Perhaps it was when you started sending all your messages via voice notes instead of typing them out. Maybe it was during your fifth online shop of the week when you realized you used to go outside your house to get your food and sundries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about convenience. As someone who hates people and the outside world, I welcome all of the latest improvements that allow me to stay at home more than ever before.

It’s a strange world though, isn’t it? It’s like one half of us have become health obsessed freaks, slimming and gymming and sharing pictures of their abs on Instagram, while the other half are reveling in the technological advances that let them get away with doing the bare minimum.

Since the days of the clapper, we’ve fallen further and further down the rabbit hole of modern conveniences, and I can’t help but think of the film Wall-E which, spoiler alert, prophesied a future where human beings have become so goddamn lazy that they can’t even be bothered to walk around anymore. Robots and voice activated apps take care of the humans’ every need. That movie came out in 2008. The scenario doesn’t really seem that farfetched now, does it?

The crazy thing is, taking the lazy way out of things doesn’t always make life any easier for us.

For those of us who have the lights that turn on when you clap; how long did that honeymoon period last? Oh, it’s fun to show your friends this clever new way to light up your home, but how is that any easier than just flicking a switch? How about Alexa? She does lights, music, security, Amazon ordering, phone calls, the whole nine yards. But is Alexa really your friend? Okay, yeah, if you’re on the couch or in the bed and you don’t want to go clear across the room to turn off the lights, the clapper or your brand-spanking new Alexa might come in handy… until you’re applauding so hard your hands ache or you find yourself yelling until the neighbor calls the cops again (911? That crazy lady next door is at it again. Yeah, the lights.), or you spend your rent money on Amazon ordering who knows what, all because the system just isn’t working the way it should.

I mean, you could’ve walked the 6 feet to the light switch (and not accidentally called everyone in your contacts list) in the time it takes to get Alexa to understand a simple request.

Yes, mom, I know it’s 3 am.  No, I swear, nothing is wrong.  I didn’t mean to call you, or Uncle Elmer, or your next door neighbor whose number I have just for emergencies. Yes, mom, I know. You’re right, it is an ungodly hour. I just wanted to dim the lights.

Shenanigans of a Sort

St. Patrick’s Day 2020… mark it up as yet another year that I’m still not living in a cottage somewhere off the beautiful coastlines of Ireland. So, what is Saint Patrick’s Day like where you are? Here in the U.S., it’s a drinking day, a day to go bar hopping, a time where frat boys and sorority girls party all day (and then all night) long. Big whimsical hats, flamboyant over-sized sunglasses, “Kiss me, I’m Irish” buttons, and quirky borderline not so borderline offensive t-shirts with oh-so-catchy slogans on them, like, “I like my whiskey twice my age, but I like my women half my age.” Or “My mother said I could be anything when I grew up, so I became an alcoholic.”

Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, everything turns green this time of year. Hell, in the year 1962, the city of Chicago started their annual tradition of dying an entire river green. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event – and so many others, has been canceled this year.

With the state of the world right now, and everything pretty much closed, it looks like I’ll stay safe with a bottle of Bailey’s curled up on the couch with some Netflix. Will no doubt watch Leap Year again (yeah I know, not exactly a film chock full of Irish history), and while there’s no one for me to chase clear across the ocean just so I can meet someone else and fall in love, I’d sure like to have the wherewithal to make that leap on my own.

Movies like Under the Tuscan Sun (one of my favorites) are inspiring, but they all seem to have the same caveat. The person making the leap has the financial stability to just up and move without even having their wallets feel the least bit underweight. Or, if you’re more into Hallmark movies, the woman in question snags a primo nanny job in some far-off land and then goes on to snag the stupidly rich hot dad/family member/neighbor/inn keeper. I love kids (my own, anyway), but I just don’t have that kind of patience.

If you’re into a bit of the ol’ action genre for the holiday, since everyone should be considering staying in, The Boondock Saints is a great movie to check out. The sequel is, well…meh. Although catching a glimpse of a wet and naked Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flannery is always a plus. It’s a foul-mouthed action-packed movie series with heavy Irish overtones that would do well to simulate the drunken brawls and loudness that a lot of bargoers would experience at the pub this time of year. In other words, my kind of movie.

Since this has apparently turned into a recommendation for movies, you can’t go wrong with The Commitments. The soundtrack alone makes it worth it, but the story is pretty damn good too.  If you want some family fare… Darby O’Gill and the Little People, with a young Sean Connery, is just the thing!

There’s a friend of mine who makes it a point to watch as many of the old cheesy Leprechaun horror movies as he can on this holiday. I think he said there were 8 of them out there. I’ve only seen a few of them myself, so I have some catching up to do. In the wake of being under lockdown for most, binging these Saint Patrick’s Day inspired horror movies would take up somewhere around 13 hours of your day. Couple that with some hearty Irish whiskey, and you have yourself a Quarantine Saint Patrick’s Day starter kit.

Above all else though, no matter what you decide to do, remember to stay safe, drink responsibly, and for the love of all that’s holy, wash your hands. As for me? I guess for now, I’ll just grab another glass of Bailey’s and my TV remote and pay my respects with a drink in honor of Ireland.

Bird Brain

As I was listening to my upstairs neighbor vacuum at midnight last night… as they are wont to do, with a random chorus or two of what I hope was the husband yelling at a video game, and not his kid or dog, I got to thinking of other, similarly considerate neighbors.

In my old condo, I had a neighbor on the lower level, let’s call her Barbara.  Barbara enjoys Frasier, The Nanny, and Fox News. I know this because she kept her television volume high enough that I could easily follow along with the episodes (I, too, am a fan of Frasier and The Nanny, though Fox News not so much).

Besides listening to her t.v. at decibels worthy of a Motörhead concert, Barbara liked to putter around the common area outside her sliding glass door, making it her own. She planted flowers and watered the trees and bushes and put out bird feeders. She was also known to feed the squirrels, and would walk around, tossing bread and bird seed on the ground. It was quite reminiscent of my grandmother feeding chickens. I want this image to be clear in your head, folks… an elderly woman delighting in her flowery surroundings, creating an oasis of sorts for birds and squirrels and wildlife in our humble cul-de-sac. It was an admirable pursuit, I will say.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, but a few birds decided to call our little apartment complex home. No doubt feeling welcomed by the aforementioned oasis. In fact, two opted to build a nest on my balcony.  I didn’t mind. I like birds.

Barbara, to put it mildly, lost her shit. She accosted me one afternoon as I came home late from work to order the removal of said nest. She claimed they were making a mess on her patio. She. Wanted. Them. Gone. She has eczema, I’ll have you know – and whether she actually does or not, I don’t know, but I do know that she was verrry vocal about it, shouting her diagnosis at me at least four times.

I calmly (I know, right!? Me!) explained that I would check it out and if there were no occupants of the egg or newly hatched variety, I’d be happy to remove it from her life immediately. But if there were eggs or chicks, then I would wait until the chicks had flown the coop, as it were.  And while I hadn’t observed the mess she claimed existed, I assured her that I would keep the area clean of any debris.

This wasn’t good enough and I was advised, once again, and quite vehemently, that she has eczema and a few twigs had fallen onto her patio and she was going to call the health department on me because two wild birds hadn’t stayed in the trees where they damn well belonged.

She kept me standing there for over a half hour, ranting about this nest and the imminent summoning of the health department brigade.

Once I climbed up into the rafters of the balcony to take a peek, I realized that the birds had already abandoned it for better, and likely more solitary, living elsewhere, making Barbara’s hearty warnings against my hearth and home a hollow threat.

But say they had set up shop… would my concern for these birds be misplaced?  Would my refusal to murder this house wren family make me the bad neighbor?

I’ll admit, being jumped as soon as I exited my car after a long day didn’t exactly elicit any sympathy for Barbara’s plight. Another, less autocratic, tactic on her part may have garnered more of the response she was seeking. Though really, if I’m being honest, I doubt it. I still wouldn’t have removed the nest until I was sure that there were no chicks in it, no matter who asked. The fact that she wasn’t asking, but ordering, is a moot point.

To this day, I don’t understand her mindset though… why work so hard every day to bring the birds down with food, water, and pleasantries, and then be shocked when they want to make a home?

Feeling Prompted

I was researching a few things on the internet the other day, you know, as one does, and I came across an interesting concept. Writing prompts. Who knew this was a thing?  Well, a writing prompt that I found on a site for writing prompts to combat writer’s block: Write about something you don’t remember.

How the hell can you write about something if you don’t remember it?

Writing prompts are stupid. Want proof?  Another writing prompt from that same site: travel the world and post as you go.

I mean, really? Okay sure, I’ll just pack up my pencil laptop and head to Cairo or Australia. Yeah, I hear that’s nice, but I’m not a fan of spiders that can eat my face. Actually, not a fan of spiders at all. Peter Parker is about as close to spiders as I would want to be (the Andrew Garfield version, just so we’re clear). But hey, I’m nothing if not adventurous (don’t roll your eyes at me!), so just let me enter my info in Google here and get my tickets… what?! Almost $2,000 dollars just to get there!? Moths currently inhabit my bank account, so yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I know! I could travel to work and discuss traffic or that plastic bag I saw rolling across the highway. Was it from Walmart… or Wegman’s? Now that seems more affordable.

Everyone and their brother seems to be writing articles on writing prompts. Articles written on writing prompts fill even the most cobwebby corners of the interwebs (ha!).  Not to be left behind on this blogging trend, here are a select few I’ve assembled from said corners — and answered — for your reading pleasure. Get ready to be prompted!

Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible? Honestly, I’d rather be invisible. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, not fond of heights, or the falls either for that matter.  Invisibility is right up there with teleportation… imagine the things you could see and do, the banks you could rob.  With my luck, if I could fly, I’d just I’d run into a powerline.

Would you rather fight off the zombie apocalypse, or defend the planet against hostile aliens? This is easy, zombies all day. Aliens have ray guns, ships, and anal probes. I really don’t need to go any further here – suffice to say, I … um… really dislike anal probes. And frankly, in our current political climate, I’d almost welcome a zombie apocalypse. I wouldn’t have to go to work, shave my legs, grocery shop, or do laundry. I would miss showers though, so there’s that. Not to mention running. I hate running.

One food for the rest of your life? Is wine a food? I would say brownies. Not sure it’s the healthiest choice, but it’s a solid one. Yep, I stand by brownies.

Batman for a week, or Superman for a day? Batman, and I only want to be him for about an hour. Hear me out. Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, is a rich, handsome, playboy philanthropist, oh yeah, did I mention rich? Stupidly rich. Like ridiculously stupid rich. Sure, laser beams in my eyes, flying faster than a bullet is great and all. But it’s also active, tiring, dangerous, and requires a lot of responsibility. Not things on my “I need more of this in my life” list. So, sign me up for Batman, drive me to the bank, and watch me drain Bruce Wayne’s billions into my own bank account before I switch back to good ole’ me.

Would you rather live forever, or be invincible? Ugh, I’m torn on this one, let me tell you. Most would think living forever would be great, but I’m only halfway to a hundred, and I’m already sick of people. Invincible would be handy, for those days I feel like smashing my head against the wall, at least I wouldn’t bruise easy and I could save money on foundation. But the big question here is this… if you’re invincible, wouldn’t you live forever anyway?  It’s a two-fer.

If you could be a flavor of gum, what would it be? Big Red, because I’m spicy. Although I don’t lose my flavor as fast, maybe 5ive? I don’t know about stimulating your senses, but I can mystify you with my witty charm.

What color is your aura right now and why? I feel purple right now. I don’t know why; it’s just how I feel. I’ve heard that the color purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. Needless to say, I don’t fully relate on that level, but It apparently also represents, “creativity, wisdom, dignity, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic.” Now that’s a bit more me, color me purple baby! To see what your aura says about you, go here.

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf? I’m going to say vampire, because I don’t even want to think of the hair care products I’m going to need if I start dawning a full coat of luscious wolf fur. Not to mention shedding. I’ve got enough of that now with my cats, I don’t need it from myself as well. Plus, vampires sleep all day. It’s a win-win.

What Disney princess are you and why? I’m not a princess-y kind of person, but to be honest, I can see myself as bits and pieces of all them Frankenstein’d together. A bit naïve like Rapunzel (okay, fine, I just wish I had her hair!) yet adventurous like Ariel (so I like the beach… sue me), snarky and impetuous like Merida, but dedicated like Cinderella, and you know I’m not against catching that long nap if you know what I’m saying. Can you imagine how Sleeping Beauty felt after waking up? Probably a bit stiff, and maybe had to pee – but definitely well rested.

You’re a What!?

So, from time to time I’ll find myself watching the news, or YouTube, or a talk show or something, and I’ll come across these weird interviews. Whether it’s a fave musician or actor, or maybe it’s just a reporter talking with some random person on the side of the street… strange questions just seem to emerge. Even when you’re job hunting – maybe especially when you’re job hunting. There you sit with the hip HR Director and Bob from accounting, and the interview is going great, if not a little boring, and then BAM!

‘If you could be a fish in the ocean, what would you be?’

Um… what?

Okay sure, I get that these types of questions are supposed to help the interviewer figure out if you’re creative or analytical or, if we’re being honest here, a straight up freak. I have to say, I do miss the simpler days, when it’d go a little something like, “Hello, how are you, and how and/or why do you think you are qualified for this job?” And then you share your expansive resume and extraordinary successes and boom, you’ve got the job. Or not.

But wait, back to the initial question. What If I actually were a fish in the ocean? I tell you what I’d be.  I’d be lost at sea.

Without applying much thought on it, a shark should be at the top of my list. I mean, right? I think the apex predator of the ocean would be a top choice for most. Being at the top of the food chain would eliminate a lot of other problems with being a fish in the ocean. I would only have to worry about getting chomped on by cannibalistic sharks or hooking up with the odd sports fisherman or two (and not in a good way). And I can only imagine that it’s a fantastic answer to give in an interview. But when you get to know me, like I know myself, it’s pretty clear that I just don’t have that kind of all-encompassing aggression, no matter what my ex says.

Is there a fish that has major anxiety issues and constantly worries about, well, everything… while also saying “fuck this shit” to just about every situation?  That would be me. On another note, The Incredible Mr. Limpet is one of my favorite movies. If you haven’t seen it, you really should.  I could be like Mr. Limpet. Riddled with anxiety, but still comes thru in the end.

Or, I’d get eaten by a shark on my first day as a fish, which is most likely the harsh reality to my current ocean fantasy.

You have to ask yourself this, though, on the other side of the spectrum, as the employer or interviewer, what answers do you expect? Which ones are red flags, and which ones scream “I know this is the one!” Is there a cheat-sheet somewhere to help you figure it out?

For instance, a guy answers with, a sea snail. Cause he just loves to hang around and observe people all day. Maybe not the best answer for landing that new job. Oh sure, he’s lovely to look at (I mean, most sea snails are) but probably not a good fit for the work at hand.

What if the answer was, an octopus? And their reason was so that they could work 8 times more efficiently. Now if I was hiring for a job, I would probably hire the octopus. Just seems more logical, if you ask me.

Maybe you get that one person who doesn’t get the concept behind the question. ‘Fish? Pfftt! I’m more of a horse type, wide-open fields, running free, no-one can control me, I can’t be contained, I’m wild, baby, wild!’ Okay great! Allow me to validate your parking, and you have yourself a fantastic day! Please help yourself to an oatcake on the way out.

Not that I don’t love horses, cause let me tell you, I do.  I love them at least 10 times more than fish, if not more. But instead of highlighting your “outside of the box thinking,” one’s failure to answer a question according to the interviewer’s set parameters often implies that you can’t follow simple directions. Even if the question is bizarre and the interview is a joke.

Speaking of an affinity with specific animals. My spirit animal?  Truth be told, probably a sloth. Sloths are misunderstood. It’s not that we lack motivation, we just don’t see the urgency placed on us by others’ expectations. We’ll get there, wherever there is, eventually, just leave us the hell alone until then.

Or wait! A Tasmanian Devil (of the Looney Tunes variety) might be more accurate if you’ve ever seen me driving or getting annoyed at the grocery store or dealing with, you know, people.

Ugh… people, am I right?