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Happy Obama Day! (long)

political button
Whether or not you voted for President Obama, the "changing of the guard" is an opportunity to reflect on your hopes and concerns about the "regime change."

Obama's change.gov website had a feature called The Citizens' briefing Book which was soliciting feedback from Internet users about their concerns. Supposedly Obama intends to review this briefing book when making a To Do list for his first days in office.

Every day, the President receives books filled with facts and recommendations to be considered while crafting and enacting policies.
The Citizen’s Briefing Book—a project that has enabled everyday Americans to share their expertise and insight with President Obama—has been a tremendous success so far.
Michael Strautmanis, Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Transition, was particularly impressed by the enthusiastic response the feature has elicited.

“We have had an unbelievable response—over 70,000 people participated, half a million votes, and tens of thousands of wonderful ideas,” Strautmanis said.

...

Thank you for sharing your ideas on the issues facing the new administration. Over 125,000 users submitted over 44,000 ideas and cast over 1.4 million votes. The best rated ideas will be gathered into a Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama after he is sworn in.

(NOTE: My apostrophe shift in the word "citizens" implies it is for multiple citizens rather than one, but my interpretation may be off the mark.)

The "wish list" for Internet users included:

1. Ending Marijuana Prohibition

I suggest that we step back and take a non-biased "Science Based" approach to decide what should be done about the "Utter Failure" that we call the War on (some) Drugs.
The fact is that Marijuana is much less harmful to our bodies than other Legal Drugs such as Tobacco and Alcohol. And for the Government to recognize Marijuana as having Medicinal Properties AND as a Schedule I drug (Has NO medicinal Properties) is an obvious flaw in the system.
We must stop imprisoning responsible adult citizens choosing to use a drug that has been mis-labeled for over 70 years.
 

If America committed itself to this creed it would solve many problems at once. By creating the economic incentives and legislative benchmarks, going green will:
  • Completely revamp American industries and help them compete in global markets.
  • Save America’s auto industries by creating a change or fail incentives.
  • Put millions of people back to work.
  • Rebuild our infrastructure in ways that provide everyone with clean safe transportation.
  • Eliminate America’s need for foreign oil (by 2020 not 2050) making America safer.
  • Renew the American Dream and restore America’s leadership and respect in the world.

Our federal government's Drug Enforcement Administration continues to raid marijuana (cannabis) dispensaries and compassionate use clubs in locations where local and state law allows them to operate. Medicinal marijuana is one of the most widely-supported issues in drug policy reform. Our federal government is wasting scarce resources -- and hurting sick people -- by arresting patients and their caregivers; it should stop doing so.

One in four teenagers have a sexually transmitted disease. AIDS still exists. The longer we keep our children in the dark about their bodies, the longer these facts will continue to be true. The longer we endanger the very children we seek to protect. Sex WILL happen. As adults our own histories have proven that. It is wrong to expect more from our children than we could from ourselves. We can, however, help them to understand the consequences and beauties of the decisions they choose to make. I do NOT imply that sex education will solve the world’s problems. I DO mean to imply that when teenagers understand the gravity of what they possess and all of its dangers they will make decisions that are more adult in nature. Sex is an adult decision. I agree. I also agree that the decision to not have sex is also an adult decision. Informing our youth is part of helping them grow. We cripple them with fear tactics, when we could instead empower them to live safe, responsible lives.

Train transportation funding should be increased at the federal level. I think that the one issue keeping many people from using trains to travel to and from other cities is that they are too slow. What we really need are bullet trains between cities, like the ones that are prevalent in Japan. To increase the number of individuals using trains, the trains have to be much faster, and have to arrive at terminals at a greater frequency. Additionally, more funding should be removed from road construction and moved to funding light rail initiatives in major U.S. cities.


 

Let us again be human rights advocates.
Torture is a popular debate in the current American discourse. The reaction of the US to photographs of our smiling soldiers at Abu Grahib made clear that America is no longer the defender of human rights. The reality of war is that horrible things happen. We know this. We are not alone in this knowledge. Torture is not new. The world knows this. What has changed is our public stance on human rights violations such as torture. As a country, we now condone torture openly, which is far different than merely knowing that it happens in war. Most parents know that their children drink from time to time but they do not condone it. Condoning torture is the beginning of devolution.


The notion that giving the owners of the companies more money so that it will eventually trickle down to the common people is absurd. People WITH money HAVE money because they know how to KEEP money.


The reason that our country pays more for health care than anywhere else in the world and still has poor health outcomes is that the system is run by profit-seeking insurance companies. Health insurance should not be a for-profit field.


The Church of Scientology was founded in the early 1950s, and quickly gained and lost its tax exempt status as a religion. The IRS ruled that the system of "fixed donations" and the services offered to the public constituted a for-profit venture, and was therefore taxable. This judgement stood the test of the courts, and was only overturned after the Church of Scientology filed more than 2,000 law suits against the IRS and individuals within the organization. Scientology leader David Miscavige met with IRS officials to negotiate their new tax deal, one which is clearly superior to those of all other religious organizations in the United States.

In the recent Sklar case, it was ruled that similar tax exemptions for religious schooling should not be allowed for the Jewish couple.
Based on this ruling, it is mandatory to maintain the Establishment Clause of the Constitution that Scientology's tax exempt status at the very least be altered so as to match those of other religions.

It is my belief, and the belief of thousands of other Americans, that the Church of Scientology is a dangerous, for-profit organization. Thousands of accusations of abuse have been leveled against the church, both domestically and internationally, and the organization has been convicted of fraud and manslaughter in some countries. Such an organization does not deserve the same tax breaks as other religions, and it certainly does not deserve better ones.



  • Separation of church and state.
  • Free speech.
  • Right to be secure "in our persons and effects".
  • Rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, so long as we infringe on no on else's same rights.
  • Right to bear arms.
  • Right to a speedy trial.
  • Respect for other sovereign nations.
These rights are clear and not to be violated.


Bubbling under:


11. Boost America's Economy with Legal Online Poker

12.
Restore Net Neutrality Protections to the Internet

13.
Increase MPG (miles per gallon) requirements now!

14 .
Honesty and Transparency (in Governmental Debate on Issues)

 

 
Also, Aretha Franklin's voice still sends shivers up my spine, especially her creative styling on the phrase "Let Freedom ring." I'm not a huge fan, and it isn't the best version I have ever heard (the poor woman is old, cut her some slack), but I must give her her due. Interesting choice.

I also enjoyed the poet, Elizabeth Alexander. Well, I enjoyed that she was invited to be there. She is the fourth inaugural poet, following Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and Miller Williams. She celebrated the little guy, the hard worker, the dreamer, the simple, homey soul who raises children, teaches, labors, tries to do the right thing. Our history has been hard-scrabble but full of hope, and she seems to feel that love "beyond marital, filial, national" is the key to our continued progress and success. Or maybe I am completely off-base. It was a simple poem, perhaps due to keeping the audience (unlikely to be full of poetry fans, given the declining emphasis on poetry in modern times) in mind, perhaps striving to strike a chord through a phrase that would not sound foreign or odd coming from the lips of anyone who felt inspired to quote it. I couldn't begin to guess. I've heard better, I've heard worse. (Trust me on that. Shout out to Atlanta poet, Wolf!) I personally know dozens of poets who would have done a better job. I'm just glad she was there, and there are bits and pieces in her poem that aren't so bad.



In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,

any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.


My interest in the arts portion of the swearing-in ceremony is not accidental. One of my suggested issues, had I found out about the change.gov Citizens' Briefing Book a few days earlier, would have been a call to respect the value of the arts, and to continue supporting them. The arts fulfill needs that go beyond the basics, such as clothing, shelter, nourishment. The arts stretch our minds and imaginations, and feed our spirits. The arts add beauty and mystery and mutual understanding to our lives. Yes, even the arts you personally do not like have value, even if that value lies in forcing you to define what you don't like about them.

The arts challenge the status quo, and provide a voice to those who otherwise would not have a voice. The arts celebrate not only the individual mind with its unique ideas that came up with a work of art, but also the spirit of the age, the cultural background within which the artist resides.

The arts promote understanding of others. When you read a book by an author from a different racial, social, cultural, national, generational background than your own, you expand your understanding of those differences and you have the opportunity to embrace them as equally valid and valuable as your own. When you view a work of art created by someone who is different from you, you are entering a dialogue with them that transcends differences and time. When you read a poem, the poet will use words in ways you might not have ever chosen, and those words can reach your heart and mind, and allow you to make connections between ideas you might not have ever connected before. When you listen to music, new or old, performed by musicians, you are making a cultural connection with those who have also heard that music, and for whom that music had importance and meaning.

Be it dance, or fiber art, or architecture, or installation art, or performance art, or whatever...the arts open doors between the artists and their audiences. Forgetting all the debates about worthy / unworthy, good / bad, useful / useless, valid / invalid, whatever: the arts feed your mind, and are about communication and self-expression. In the United States, we seem to claim to value the individual over the collective, the group, but there is still a great amount of pressure to conform and tow the line interpersonally. The arts celebrate not only the individual, but also the power that individual has to affect change, to spread an idea, to inspire.

I particularly liked this article written by Daniel Vineyard about the importance of the arts:

 
 


What would you have chosen to bring to the President's attention (if you did not vote on them at change.gov)? Do you believe that the gesture is sincere, and that it will have any impact, or not?

For the record, the home page at Obama's website mentions his commitment to these issues / goals:

  1. Revitalizing the Economy

  2. Ending the War in Iraq

  3. Providing Health Care for All

  4. Protecting America

  5. Renewing American Global Leadership


P.S. It is also the 100th Anniversary of the NAACP today.

NOTE: I put several lj-cuts into this article, but they are not all working. I did try, and I fiddled with the HTML code to try to get them to work. Apparently I have a choice between using indenting and font size differences for clarity, or using multiple lj-cuts. Removing the other formatting resulted in a mish-mash of text that was more difficult to read. As it is, it should be easier to scan through the sub-topics and only read the sections that are of importance to you.
 




R.I.P., Mr. Woozle

Mr Woozle
After a long fight, Mr. Woozle could fight no more. He never bounced back from the bout of E.C.E. he contracted a month ago, though he had good days and bad ones. He beat insulinoma / pancreatic tumors last year, but got terminal liver cancer this year and we all knew it was a matter of time. He spontaneously began bleeding from his rectum, profusely. Needless to say, I was horrified. I called six vets, all of which were closed or unhelpful or too far away. I was able to clean him up and soothe him and make him comfortable, but it was very sudden, and had I driven to the nearest available clinic, he would not have made it there alive, and I could not drive and hold and talk to him at the same time. It was a tough decision to make.

He died in my arms, being cuddled and talked to, and at some point he slipped into a coma, thus was in no apparent pain or distress.

The closest emergency vet was too far for me to get there before their exotic vet was off duty, but they were very kind and helpful, unlike the asses I deal with every time my pets get ill on a weekend down here. They are unsympathetic and unhelpful.

Example one: Last time I called, the girl thought she pushed mute or hold and proceeded to gossip with her friend for fifteen minutes while I was waiting to get help for my sick pet.

Example two: They are supposed to be open 24 hours a day, but I've called them for help twice before where the phone rang, unanswered for hours on end: once for FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT, and once for three.

Example three, tonight: I told the clinic staff girl that I know they don't help exotics, because they don't, alas, but I hoped she'd be able to help me find someone near enough that could. She did answer the phoen with "How can I help you with your pet," after all. After exhibiting a total lack of concern, then saying "all we can do is put him down for you, do you want that or what," she huffed off and gave me the number of a regional exotic animal emergency medicine clinic, which is located in the next state.  Later my friend called to get directions in case euthanasia looked like the kindest option, and the girl couldn't be bothered to give her directions, and answered the phone with a comment like "How can I help you with your DOG or CAT?"

Completely heartless ass of a girl she was, and (as my friend C. proposed) she was probably pissed she had to help someone rather than chit-chat or go on a smoke break. It was not the best situation. My friend is livid and threatening to write Angry Letters To The Editor of the Local Newspaper Exclamation Points ALL CAPS RAEG!!! It was just inexcusable, and there's no one else, so they can be as rude as they please, anyone with a pet in the area who gets sick after office hours is stuck with them.

Mr. Woozle looks like he is asleep, and his peaceful passing was a great comfort. Murphy is stir-crazy, since I've been on death watch on and off all week and am already pie-eyed with fatigue. He ran under the bed and burrowed into the box spring, so although he desperately needs some run around time, he is going to have to wait until I have the energy to run around with him.

I'd been concerned about the stress holiday travel and being away from home would cause Mr. Woozle. I'm devastated that he couldn't stick around with me a little longer, but at least he did not suffer.

I had the presence of mind to take a lot of photos and videos this month, not that they are any substitute, and I am glad about that. He was my very first little ferret guy, and he will be sorely missed.

Some Woozle videos:

Mr. Woozle Meets The New Ferret (meeting Murphy)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGW4XB26QLQ

The Epic Ferret Guy saga (about his health issues)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5bnnI3rGNI




Chappy Channukkah! (PIX)

Mr Woozle
Mr Woozle brings tidings of seasonal greetings and such to his Jewish buddies out there.











Sleepy ferret is sleepy (and dreaming of gelt and raisin-flavored Bandits).








The Xenu Babies Meet Santanon (VIDEO)

gorilla and me
LULZ.







Comedy of Errors and Holiday Weasels (PIX)

Mr Woozle
Today has been a fun day. *sigh*

1. Put Xmas tree up, and it is on its last legs, no longer revolving, and looking distinctly like a Charlie Brown kind of tree, poor thing. Observe:


Poor little tree.

2. Broke a vase I particularly liked, because I had ferrets running around near it and the inevitable occurred.

3. Mr. Woozle decided to poop NEXT to the litter pan on his convalescence table, which means he hung his bottom over the edge and pooped directly into my shoe.

4. Hobbled with only one shoe on towards bathroom to wash poop off shoe.

5. Failed to sweep up every grain of glass, and managed to get glass in foot.

6. While in bathroom, cleaning poop off shoe, Mr. Woozle dumped an entire two pound gravity feeder off the table, scattering a bajillion kibblets all over the floor.

7. Not to be outdone, Murphy pushed the gravity water bottle off the table onto my head as I was picking up food particles.

8. Took Mr. Woozle upstairs for his meds, and he clenched his teeth and cheeked his sticky, brown Prednisone dose, and then shook his muzzle and got Pred all over me (eyes, nose, mouth), new white T-shirt, ten foot radius of kitchen, et cetera.

9. He then took a huge, stinky dump in the kitchen sink.

10. Took bath, scrubbed self thoroughly, then took trash and recyclables outside, where I skidded on damp moss, fell on my keister, and scattered foul biohazard trash and nastiness all over back yard.

11. Took second bath, scrubbed self thoroughly, found out Murphy has learned to poo through the bars of the ferret condo. Poos EVERYWHERE. O. M. G.

12. Took third bath of the day, scrubbed self thoroughly, phone starts ringing insistently while in bathtub.

13. I predict it will be my mother, and I am right. She wants to have the realtor come over with house hunters in the next thirty minutes.

14. I survey the various half-cleaned messes all over the house, most of them caused by my adorable scamp ferret friends, and I feel sad.

15. Woozle clearly feels bad, still, and poops again. It's cold outside, but outside we must go. I sit in my car for an hour and a half with one sick ferret and one rambunctious ferret crammed into a tiny travel container and curse my mother's selfishness and bad timing.

16. Realtor does not show up. I curse the realtor's incompetence and bad timing.

17. I prepare my lunch, get into pajamas because it is now dark outside, and unpack the animals, who are in no mood to settle down and let me eat.

18. I go upstairs and there are strangers in my house. The realtor is two and a half hours late. They must tour the house right away. This time, I refuse to evacuate. Fuck them all.

19. House hunters are polite but do house hunter things, like opening stuff that does not come with the house (e.g., drawers) and criticizing my grandmother's antiques.

20. I discover that half the bulbs in the house are burnt out, because I do not go into those areas of the house very often, and usually not at night. House hunters and realtor fumble around in the dark.

21. House hunter discovers another crumb of vase glass underfoot and becomes alarmed. Jesus Christ.

22. Ferrets proceed to protest being hidden behind a sheet in their condo by pooping copiously and odiferously, nearly gassing all of us to death. Unsurprisingly, the interlopers are suddenly eager to be on their way.

23. I realize I am suddenly starving. My lunch has now been congealing in the microwave for hours and must be thrown out.

24. I get an email from a friend who usually happily welcomes me & pets into her home, but she is having marital problems and will not be in town this year. I realize that I do not know where I will be boarding during Xmas (as the ferrets aren't welcome at my family's house--not because of bad behavior, but because of dislike of furry creatures in general--and Mr. Woozle has to have refrigeration for his steroid medication), or how I can even afford to deal with Xmas this year (I have been ridiculously frugal but my investment account lost $10K in four months, I'm a full time student, my student loans come due in January because I am taking independent studies that do not qualify as classes to the loan company and working on my thesis, my mother is dumping more bills on me due to financial stress, and my health insurance just doubled in price as well). I consider blowing Xmas off. I am as disinterested as it is humanly possible to be.

25. I need to do something to cheer myself up, and the ferrets must be Positively Punished, like Polly Pingleton. Results below.



Animated ferrets in holiday wear:

    

Somehow, ferrets can make bad days a little better.



Tentative Name For New Ferret Baby (VIDEO)

Mr Woozle
The new baby gave Mr. Woozle ferret clap, alas. He had E.C.E. (basically, a bacterial infection that causes green, slimy poo) and ear mites. Both fuzzies got examined by the vet the minute the vet's office opened today--I was beside myself with anxiety all weekend, as no exotic vets are open on weekends in this town. The baby got his shots, Mr. Woozle got examined and prodded and pronounced "healthy and fat, for a terminally ill liver cancer patient" and got nasty medicines to take twice a day until Friday.

I'd dosed him with Pedialyte & Beechnut baby food and water all weekend, which kept his blood sugar up. Poor little old man. Anyway, this was apparently exactly the right thing to do. He survived the weekend and was actually a little heavier than normal when checked, which is good. His shoulders are bony from the E.C.E. vomiting and diarrhea, but he had enough winter weight already put on to weather it.

The little one is a mess. He poops everywhere, isn't motivated by treats (so he will be very hard to train), and is the cutest thing ever. He's also an escape artist. He's found ways out of the condo, twice (bought more snap leads), he's escaped out of his harness three times (hopefully when he gets bigger, it will be more difficult to do), and when I was at the vet's office letting him work off some of his energy with a jingle ball, he squeezed under the exam room door and escaped into the back kennels and supply closets. One of the vet techs noted he was a regular Houdini. He is. So, until he tells me what his name is, he's Houdini. If it sticks, it sticks. I had to have a name for the vet papers, anyway.

Because they were such good boys at the vet, and because the carrying case was meant for one ferret and had seen better days (especially since in the five minute ride to the vet's office, Mr. Woozle had another attack of green, slimy diarrhea...ARGH!...and they both were clawing escape holes through the mesh), they got a new (doggie) carrier with spiffy lambswool liner, lots of treats (Bandits and Cheweasels), a big bag of spiffy (expensive) kitten chow with lots of protein to use as treats and to mix into the blend of 4-5 foods they get, a new potty pan, lots of toys, and I'm trying out a simple bell collar on the baby. They are so spoilt.

They are both worn out and snoozing now.

Here's a quick'n'dirty video I just slapped together in MovieMaker. I didn't do anything fancy. You can see the guys play-fighting, getting into mischief, and just hanging out (with the old carrier--I should burn it, really):



Enjoy!




New Fuzzy (POLL, PICTURES)

Mr Woozle
I've been thinking of getting a friend for the little old man for a couple of years now, but have been putting it off because I hoped I could adopt from a shelter. Alas, if they had any, I never lucked out.

Today I went into a Pet Supermarket to buy Laxatone and litter, and came out with Laxatone, litter, a little ferret, and some toys he was partial to. The little one was born August 24th.

The ferrets were introduced, and it all went swimmingly. They sniffed each other, wandered off to observe each other from a distance, and within fifteen minutes were playing with each other and having a grand old time. They've groomed each other and shared food and napped together.

The only sad thing is that Mr Woozle gets so worn out when he plays and has to lie down. He doesn't understand why his energy is giving out. Poor old man. He doesn't have much more time. It makes me sad.

I am hoping the little buddy will prolong his time, give him a little friend to play with and cuddle up with. He loves other ferrets.

Want to help name the baby?

Poll that was originally here won't work along with images, for whatever reason, but if you'd like to weigh in on the new fuzzy's name, the options are being discussed in the comments section (and on other pet loving forums).

Some choices:
  • Bosko
  • Tanuki
  • Malteser
  • Mocha
  • Snickers
  • Alfie
  • Fitzie
  • Bueller
  • Kuma
  • Poppet
  • Minky Boodle
  • Fidget
  • Gromit
  • Kismet
  • Skiffle
  • Tango
  • Tigger
  • Tiramisu
  • Whimsy
  • Saucy

I'm leaning towards Tanuki, but suggestions are more than welcome, and if none of these suggestions appeal, feel free to suggest different options.

Here are some pictures:

Click to see cute ferretsCollapse )

Isn't he cute? He's almost as cute as my big guy, Mr Woozle, who is adorable even though he has a chipped front fang, shaved belly and a Prednisone-induced half-bald tail! :)

Time to train the little one to POOP IN THE BOX, not nip people, and to do tricks like Woozle can do, such as coming when called, leash-walking, shoulder-riding, begging for treats, rolling over and giving smoochies. Hope he's smart. :P



The LOLcat Community Celebrates

kittyheadbangers_mustangracer




The World's Dumbest Dog

broccoli dog
I am under a huge amount of stress lately, and should probably share with you guys some of the details about all that, but I think it can continue to marinate for another day or so. Instead, I will tell you a story that I hope you will find at least somewhat entertaining, so you might more willingly indulge me when I get around to bitchin' about aggravating, stressful, stupid stuff later.

I think I mentioned that my neighbor lost her beloved black lab, Zach, and how traumatizing it was for me, who didn't even own the dog, to help her deal with unexpected Doggie Death, and Dead Dog, and Dead Dog Ash Urns, and Dead Dog Corpses In Freezers and Dog Death Depression with her. She and her husband have apparently added a new dog to their household, because the remaining dog has been near death for years and, by all expectations and logic, should have been the Dead Dog, rather than the outwardly healthy but inwardly riddled with cancer Actual Dead Dog, and they can't be dog-free, EVER. He's the back-up dog. I hope to meet the little pot-lickin' sock-sucker soon. He sounds like a little character.

I was relieved to hear he was a terrier and not a beagle. Terriers may be crazy, they may be yappy, they may annoy you by trying to be Alpha Dog in your household all the damn time, tthey can even be kind of mean, but they are smart dogs, and cute as the dickens. My grandparents always had terriers. They bit people. Often. I lucked out and never got chomped, but I am probably the only family member or neighbor who didn't get terrier teethmarks in her flesh. (Now I have a cranky elderly ferret who delights in biting everyone but me. I must be charmed.)

My childhood pet was a beagle, and I am starting to suspect that beagles tend to be functionally retarded at the best of times. Adorable, big brown eyes, eager to please, total doggie derps with not two brain cells to knock together inside their empty little heads, beagles may be the canine world's Inbred Jeds. At least they are sweet-tempered beasts.

Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, was a beagle. Snoopy is a damn lie. Snoopy is portrayed as being creative, smart and clever. I know Snoopy is imaginary because he is a comic strip character, but still, it is false advertising. I can count the number of beagles I have met on one hand (with fingers to spare) that showed any sign of intelligence.

Brandy, our family dog when I was small, was the least smart of them all. Now, Brandy was sweet, and loving, but her total lack of smarts used to drive us crazy. I actually saw her walk into a wall, look at it accusingly, as if to complain that it shouldn't have jumped out in front of her like it just did, back up, and then promptly walk right back into it again. This is a dog with normal eyesight who wasn't senile. She was just that mentally challenged.

Brandy was also fucking LOUD. Hounds have a special kind of bark-howl that non-hound-owners are unfamiliar with. Brandy would greet us enthusiastically with ear-piercing howls of joy whenever we came home. Alas, she was so incredibly dim that she interpreted someone leaving the room and coming right back as a signal to cue Joyous Homecoming Arias.

When the family moved into an apartment complex, we were so used to Brandy's enthusiastic and high-decibel greeting style that we were shocked when neighbors started pounding on our door, trembling with outrage, and threatening to tell the ASPCA that we were beating our dog. We'd have to spend an annoying length of time explaining that no, we did no such thing, we loved the fucking dog, though sometimes we wondered why, and if the neighbor seemed the least bit dubious, we'd only have to open the door and go back inside, neighbor by our sides, to cue Brandy's bark-howls of ecstacy. We'd be twenty feet away and she'd still be howling like an air raid siren and about to wet herself with delight. No one ever complained twice.

We tried for five years to train the dog. The only command she mastered semi-successfully was coming when called. She didn't always put two and two together and realize we were actually talking to her, but if you made eye contact, she would lumber over most of the time for some petting and ear-rubbing. The dog was just retarded beyond belief. I have owned smarter gerbils, and a typical gerbil has a brain the size of a frozen English pea.

Beagles, like most hounds, live to eat. In addition to being a typical beagle with an insatiable appetite, Brandy was incredibly lazy. You didn't take Brandy for a walk, you took her for a slow drag, or an even slower inch by inch inspection of every blade of grass in the yard. My brother and I would try to think of things for the dog to do that might induce her to get some exercise. We'd walk her up and down staircases, up and down off curbs, and around and around the neighborhood, and she'd eat anything she could get into her mouth while trudging along half-heartedly behind us.

She was too stupid to play fetch. You'd throw a ball, and she'd decide that it ceased to exist once it flew over her head, and would just sit there, stupidly, wondering what we were going on about. We tried to get her to fetch sticks. If she managed to clue in that we wanted her to go get the stick, she'd occasionally manage to find it by accident a half hour later, and settle in for a mid-day snack and eat it. Every scrap.

By the time the dog was a year old, it was obvious that she wasn't plump from puppy fat, she was just fat. By the time she was two, she looked like two beagles glued together. By the time she was five, she was a barrel supported by four tiny furry toothpicks. We were baffled. The dog was on diet dog food, exercised, and she still ballooned in size. The Goodyear Mutt. Meanwhile, the cat didn't seem to ever gain much weight. Clever detective work revealed that the dog was just bright enough to wait until there were no human witnesses before eating the cat's food and then her own.

We started to feed the cat on top of the clothes dryer in the utility room. The dog started to eat the plastic dishes her food and water were served in. We switched to ceramic, and she managed to break and eat chunks of those, too. We finally moved on to thick metal bowls, and she was thwarted, but only for a while. She found other things to eat.

I could write a book about the bizarre things the dog managed to consume. We always considered it a miracle that she didn't ever eat our cat. Socks was a lot smarter than Brandy, however, and that may have been what saved her.

(On an ironic note, I was in first grade when we got the animals, and, being an advanced reader, I'd already read a lot of Beverly Cleary books. Socks was named after the book (what else) Socks. Brandy was originally going to be called "Ribsy", after a dog in another Cleary book, but my mother loudly vetoed that idea and named her (I suspect) after a particularly wet top-40 song she had once liked about a fine girl who would be a good wife, if only her cheatin' tramp of a sailor boyfriend could stop dicking around and leave the Navy (or whatever) once and for all and settle down.

Calling this dog "Ribsy" would be the equivalent of calling a really big, tall, fat guy "Tiny," or referring to George W. Bush as "Einstein.")

First of all, Brandy was a coprophage. Many dogs are. She was a dedicated coprophage, though, and would harass the cat while she was in mid-poop, just to get those delicious cat brownies in the cat box. On the plus side, we didn't have to change the cat box very often. Brandy would not only eat the poop, she'd eat most of the pee-soaked litter. During shedding season, we never had a problem with fur getting on anything, because the dog licked all the shedding fur off of herself and the cat.

One fine day the dog found a box of crayons, one of those enormous 128-color boxes, the largest size Crayola made. It had been left unattended for ten minutes while the child coloring with the crayons went to the bathroom. When the budding artist (me) returned, the crayons were gone. Accusations of sibling theft flew back and forth, a brawl broke out, every corner of the house was ransacked, parents were prevailed upon to restore order (and the crayons), all to no avail. This huge box of crayons was just gone.

The next day, and for the next several days, the dog's crap came out in a rainbow of colors. Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue, she could shit a rainbow, shit a rainbow, shit a rainbow, too. On day five, the crayon sharpener that had been built into the box emerged, jauntily perched atop a perfect sky-blue-pink turd swirl. The mystery of the missing crayons had been solved.

The dog discovered that my mother used old-fashioned Kotex pads, and wrapped them in toilet paper and put them into a straw wastebasket. Used Kotex pads were apparently a delicacy, because the dog ate them, ate the other things in the wastebasket, and half of the wastebasket itself. More than once.

The dog ate a dead lightbulb.

The dog ate the air fern my mom had been fussing over that sat in a prominent place in the living room that you would never believe a fat dog could reach.

The dog ate entire rolls of toilet paper plus the toilet tube and the toilet roll spindle.

The dog ate bottles of lotion, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste.

The dog ate several fuzzy bathmats.

The dog ate stinky "OdorEaters" insoles and orthopedic arch-supporting cookies our of shoes, if for some odd reason she chose not to just go ahead and devour the entire shoe.

The dog pried up chunks out of the wooden parquet floor and ate them.

The dog ate two rubber doormats made out of recycled tires.

The dog ate toilet cakes and the little plastic baskets they dangled down from.

The dog once ate a metal Hot Wheels firetruck. It was never seen again.

The dog ate several hundred pot pie tin pans that we used to feed the cat, as occasionally one would get nudged to the edge of the clothes dryer.

The dog ate toothbrushes, hair brushes, and entire tubes of lipstick (which emerged whole, cap still on, days later).

Our dryer never had a chance to eat our socks, the dog would eat them first. Brandy was also fond of underwear, pants, shorts, t-shirts, and anything else that she could scavenge out of the laundry hamper.

The dog ate most of the Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, plastic toy vehicles, stuffed animals, Barbies and books she could find.

The dog pretty much ate everything that wasn't nailed down, and then started in on the nailed-down stuff, too.

It was after it was estimated that the dog had eaten approximately $5,000 worth of household goods, clothing and toys that my parents decided to confine the dog in the kitchen at night. The dog ate two square feet of linoleum, chewed up and ate several baby gates, ate the legs of the kitchen table, ate several legs of the kitchen chairs, dragged the new wall-to-wall carpet under the babygate and ate a hole three feet wide and two feet long out of the carpet and underliner, and ate knobs off the cabinets.

Again, the vets could not find any physical ailment to explain the voraciousness, and just said that "all hounds do that." I don't know...I've known a lot of hounds, and they do eat whatever they can, but they tend to prefer actual food items.

Please note that I'm only giving you the highlights, here. The dog ate things that no one would ever believe could be eaten, and she did it on a nearly daily basis. We weren't untidy people, and some of the things this four-legged furry Jell-o mold managed to find, acquire, and then eat had to have involved doggie teleportation or telekinesis.

The most infamous episode of inappropriate eating occurred during a posh cocktail party my parents were throwing. My mom slaved for hours making a huge sherry-infused cheeseball, rolling it in sliced nuts, and baking it in the oven so it was approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit right before the guests arrived. She popped a maraschino cherry on top, stuck it on a cutting board with crackers and toast points, and as she set it onto the coffee table, the doorbell rang.

As my mother let the first guests in, everyone heard agonized yelps coming from the den. Everyone ran to see what the horrible noises were, and there was the dog, eating six pounds of piping hot molten cheese, and crying out in pain because it was burning her mouth, throat and stomach, and the dog was too stupid to figure out that perhaps eating a boiling hot cheeseball was a bad idea and to STOP.

Her craps that week became an epic event for all the neighborhood kids to point at and marvel over, so prodigious was their size and length. She was pooping dachshund-sized landmines everywhere for days. I don't mean poops equivalent to poops a dachshund might poop, I mean poops that just needed legs, a collar and a tail to be mistaken for actual dachshunds. How her butthole didn't go on strike, I don't know. It is a mystery. It was a hot topic of discussion even at the neighborhood bus top--"those kids' beagle made the biggests poos in the world, it might be a Guinness Book World Record-sized poo, the poos were almost as big as the dog, but that dog might well win a record for being the fattest dog ever to roll into a backyard to drop a load"...you get the idea.

How the dog managed to fit six pounds of cheese into her belly was a mystery to me, as she also ate four pairs of pants (crotches, mostly), one sock, a left shoe (all but the heel), six pairs of underwear (including elastic), and the covers and most of the chapters from two textbooks (which had foolishly been left on top of my bed) the same night.

It was at this point that I threw my hands up and disowned the dog.

Just to prove that ignorance is bliss and only the good die young, this dog lived a looooooong, loooooong time, eating new and bizarre inedible things of greater size and strangeness, and finally ended up dying peacefully of old age. Not once did her crazy eating habits cause her any gastrointestinal dismay.

I may sound like a bitch, but even though I loved the dog, I don't miss her one bit. I no longer worry that when I come home, something expensive will have vanished into Brandy's voracious and indestructible maw.



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What's All This, Then?

Britpoptarts is a girl who has a curl in the middle of her forehead. You know what that means.

She rants about stuff online so her "real life" reputation of being That Pleasant Young Lady isn't completely trashed when she gets the urge to, I don't know, choke a bitch or something.

She's a blonde former MENSA member (I didn't get stupid overnight, I just stopped paying them lots of money each year for the dubious pleasure of carrying a card with an owl on it in my wallet) who is currently in graduate school (pray for me), a poet who has little patience for crappy open mic nights, a cat person who currently owns no cats (I CAN HAZ FREE CATZ?), a Taoist suffering the tortures of the damned in the friggin' Bible Belt, a former vegetarian who loves steak dinners, a thirtysomething college radio DJ, an Anglophile currently residing on the wrong side of the pond, and, well, that's just the start of the slightly bizarre juxtapositions in her life.

Things she likes: music that doesn't suck, cute brunet men, sleeping, reading, manners, travel, England, singing, writing, ferrets, cats, art, sparkly things, toys, and other stuff. She suddenly realized that lists like this make it sound like she's auditioning for a date online, and was thus immediately mortified. So that's all you get.

Things she hates: Stay tuned. You're sure to find out.

Cats Are Funny (*roffle!*)

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