The Dog Days Of Coronavirus

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On April 21, 2020, the New York Post ran a story titled “Dogs could get extreme separation anxiety when quarantine ends, experts say.” That was four months ago. Back then, we expected the whole matter of Covid-19 to have been a memory by the summer.

We were wrong.

And the dogs of the world rejoice. (For those asking, cats don’t care. If anything, our physical proximity tends to grate on them.)

It’s almost as if this master/pet thing has been turned on its head. The dog is now king of the castle. We humans, mere subjects to his beck and call, perform as trained servants, heeding his every desire.

There’s a reason why writers often speak with a touch of lamentable envy when they refer to “a dog’s life.” It’s a life of ease, a life of contentment, a life humans can only wish they had.

As we swim through the muggy summer air of the Dog Days of August, we might imagine these extended Dog Days of Coronavirus.

(Incidentally, the original source of the term “Dog Days” comes from ancient times and refers to the reappearance of the star Sirius – the “Dog Star” – in the night sky. Sirius is the brightest star. Ironically, we more commonly associate it with the winter months, when it shines brilliantly just below and to the left of Orion’s feet. Yet, to get to that prominent place in the frigid nights of January, it must first rise in the pre-dawn hours of summer. That event marks the beginning of the Dog Days. Sirius, by the way, lies in the constellation Canis Major, Latin for “Big Dog.”)

Wally is no different than any other dog. Except, maybe, he can talk. He hasn’t talked for some time, however, perhaps because he’s got nothing to say. I mean, why bother talking when you’re completely satisfied with life.

Don’t get me wrong. Barking and talking are two separate things all together. Barking is a form of play. It’s instinct. It’s just something dogs do. Sometimes with purpose. Sometimes for no reasons whatsoever.

But forget about the barking. It’s not at all about the barking. It’s about the bonding. These months together have only strengthened the bond that already existed.

We only think of this bond from the point of view of the pet. “For most dogs, the attachment they feel towards their owner is fundamental to their well-being,” says John Bradshaw Ph.D. in an article he wrote nearly ten years ago (“The Bond Between Pet and Owner,” Psychology Today, November 19, 2012).

But the bond between a dog and his master works both ways. This is because dogs can talk to us as well as listen to us. Bradshaw explains dogs have “a unique sensitivity towards human body language, gaze and gesture.” This helps them understand us more so than other pets. It’s what builds the mutual bond.

It used to be, on weekends, Wally wallowed in Nirvana. His humans stayed at home (for the most part) and even when they went out for Church, to run an errand, or to visit someone, the separation was short, sometimes shorter than a nap.

Now, everyday is a weekend. Everyone – except his one and true master, Betsy – is working from home. Funny. This reaffirms his earlier understanding that Betsy is the master of us all. Everyone else – me, Peter, Cesidia, and Catarina – are his peers.

If not his servants.

When Wally wants to go out, we take him out. When Wally wants to eat, we give him food (although less people food than before). When Wally wants a belly rub, we give him a belly rub. When Wally wants to bark, he barks no matter how much we insist he stop.

So, the dog is the master.

And that comforts us humans. For the needs of the dog now represent the pleasant baseline of life. They have become a routine we can rely on, something we can effortlessly perform. More important, we can derive immediate satisfaction from them, knowing and seeing the intended recipient gleefully accept what we offer.

Perhaps, then, we are living the Dog Days ourselves. Maybe we just don’t realize it.

What happens next?

Eventually, the day will come when we return to an activity level approximately what we’ve done in the past. We will leave the home more frequently and for longer periods of time.

With this in mind, the New York Times attempted to rewrite the topic addressed earlier by its metropolitan rival (see “How to Help Your Pet With Post-Quarantine Separation Anxiety,” August 8, 2020). Unfortunately, this article fails to differentiate between dogs and cats in the manner that the Psychology Today article explains. It also makes the same mistake as it merely repeats the prejudicial point of view.

This equation – this bond – contains two balanced sides.

Yes, our dog may pine away, alone, waiting for our return.

But what about us?

‘The Coming Thing…’ Thoughts on Turning 60

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OK, OK, so I admit it. This is a vanity post. I’ll be writing to you this week (and, it turns out, next week, too) in an unusually personal fashion.

Next week’s column (which was bumped a week for this week’s column) will make more sense. It’s written in a true “drama in real life” fashion. Oh, you needn’t worry. There’s very little real drama in it. But it will hold together in a way the following potpourri of random thoughts won’t.

Don’t mistake me, though. There will be portions of this mishmash very alluring. Some of it may even elicit the thought, “I’m glad someone finally said that.”

And with that, here we go…Continue Reading “‘The Coming Thing…’ Thoughts on Turning 60”

Was This Written 50 Years Too Early or 50 Years Too Late?

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I‘ve always been puzzled by this thought: Was I born 50 years too early or 50 years too late? This thought resurfaced this week as I rode the train back and forth to Chicago while the rest of the world dazzled itself with remembering the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

It reminds me of a skit I once did as Cubmaster for Peter’s pack. We had our meetings in the cavernous Mendon Firehall. It was always filled to capacity. Filled with boys, their parents, and their siblings.

That night I donned a pair of Buzz Lightyear “wings” (actually they were my young nephew’s and I don’t know how I fit them over my shoulders without overstretching them). After strutting a few steps with those wings, I added a Woody hat on top of my head.

Maybe one of the Toy Story movies was out that year.

In either case, I asked the pack to guess who I was. Some of the boys says “Buzz” and some said “Woody.” I said “Nope” to each guess. Then I looked up to the parents in Pack 105 and said – in a distinct John Wayne kind of voice – “Well, pilgrim, some people call me a ‘The Space Cowboy.’”

And so it has been in my life. Teetering on the precipice of “born too early” while simultaneously straddling the ledge of “born too late.” Some might view this as a Continue Reading “Was This Written 50 Years Too Early or 50 Years Too Late?”

Ode to a Fallen Tree

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I remember buying it. It was, maybe, eight inches tall. Despite its size, it formed the perfect shape of a tiny Christmas tree. It didn’t look like a Bonsai Tree. Its needles were full size, out of scale and too big for a Bonsai Tree.

The little blue spruce wasn’t the only tree I bought that day. It was the fall of 1986 and my house was brand new. I had no furniture of my own. I had no family of my own. I had no lawn, no landscaping, no home, really.

I was in the process of making my house a home. The first thing I needed to address had Continue Reading “Ode to a Fallen Tree”

The Man Who Refused to be a Victim

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In the fall of 1959, Warren Sutton did something that got him in a lot of trouble. A star collegiate athlete entering his junior year, he began dating the 18-year old daughter of an official of the university he attended. Her age wasn’t the thing that got him in a lot of trouble. The fact her father was bursar wasn’t the thing that got him in a lot of trouble. No. the trouble came about for the most superficial of reasons. You might even call them “skin-deep.” Specifically, his was black and hers was white.

While not prohibited in New York State, interracial marriages were not granted constitutional protection until 1967 when the Supreme Court struck down a Virginia statute banning such arrangements. Warren Sutton merely dated a white woman. He didn’t marry her. Still, he was hounded out of Alfred University that year, eventually finishing his stellar college basketball career at Acadia University in Canada. How good was he? He was good enough to be drafted by the NBA St. Louis Hawks. He opted for a more promising career in Continue Reading “The Man Who Refused to be a Victim”

Kenny Discovers the Birds & the Bees… and the Mice (Content for Family and Friends Only)

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This is the third of four parts of an older brother’s eulogy to a beloved younger brother.

Kenny used football to teach a lot of things, even how to deal with celebrities with respect. Whether it was about when to get excited (like the moment he and Pat saw Al Davis riding in the next car over on the Thruway while driving home after a Raiders game) or when to contain excitement (which was pretty much every time Sam saw Marv Levy at Ilio’s).

But don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t as if Kenny wasn’t into fun. He was very good at doing fun. And when he found a gag that worked, you could be sure he’d use it – over and over again. For instance, at every baptism, without fail, when the time came for the godfather to hold the baby, Uncle Kenny would lean into Cesidia and whisper, “This is when I dropped you on your head.” Of course, sometimes he forgot his audience. One year – a different year from our opening story – his Christmas tree nearly fell on young Catarina. He caught the tree before it hit her, but he could tell she was scared. So he tried to make light of the situation by saying, “Catarina, you knocked down the tree!” Well, that was too much and Catarina started crying. He did his best to comfort her, but, well, you know, girls.

He didn’t limit his repartee to one-liners, either. He could out-slapstick the Three Stooges, but only when it came to the birds and the bees… and the occasional mouse. Yes, it’s true he and Betsy would pay their young innocent daughter Teresa a dollar every time she Continue Reading “Kenny Discovers the Birds & the Bees… and the Mice (Content for Family and Friends Only)”

The Best Little Hole House in Greater Western New York

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Our family moved to the Rochester suburb of Chili during the Christmas break of my fifth grade. There are a lot of things I can tell you about that particular transition. It’s amazing what I still remember. There’s the “long” (because it was written on a narrow roll of paper) letter I received from the fifth grade classmates I had left behind in Woodlawn Intermediate. There’s my rediscovery of the game of chess while partaking in what was promoted as “science” class. (Apparently, “mapping” the moves – not even real chess notation – had something to do with scientific thinking.) Most relevant for this tome, however, was my new classmates’ anticipation of summer.

For many youngsters in and around the Rochester area, the summer not only brought the welcome end of “pencils, books and teacher’s dirty looks,” but it also ushered in the Continue Reading “The Best Little Hole House in Greater Western New York”