Monday, June 19, 2017

Life Lately

The summer is not off to a promising start. For one thing, the city has undertaken to replace the water main under our street, which I understand is necessary, will benefit us, our tax dollars at work, etc etc, but still has been an inconvenience. They started this project in March and it chiefly involves digging a trench down the middle of the street every day and filling it back in with dirt every evening, and moving enormous piles of gravel from here to there and leaving large equipment parked in the street overnight. At one point, they parked a port-a-potty right outside our neighbor's dining room window. The entire street is coated with a layer of fine white clay. On dry days, huge clouds of dust hang in the air every time a car goes by. On wet days, the street is a mud pit. Everything - our houses, our cars, our mailboxes - is filthy. My shoes are ruined. Add to this the remains of a dead bird at the mouth of our driveway. It's reduced at this point to a dirty skeleton with feathers, swarming with flies - will it ever decompose? I'm too squeamish to bury it, and I have to hold tightly to Phoebe's leash and hustle her past so she doesn't try to eat it on our way to squelch through the mud and jump the ditch and take our walk.

TL;DR Our street has been turned into a slum out of Charles Dickens.

Standing at my mailbox

Welcome to Dog Patch

Also unpromising, the month of No Time Off Whatsoever has begun. The Big Scary Go-Live is only days away. I have invitations to daily meetings at 5:30 am and other daily meetings at 10:00 pm, which I *think* I'm not required to attend. Who in the world is expected to work 5:30am-11:00pm, seven days a week? Fourth of July has been cancelled. (Really.)

Then, it's a summer of sending a kid off to college, which means dorm room supplies will soon be accumulating in the front hall and we have to attend Freshman orientation and spend a fortune on books and worry about move-in day and class registration and dorm assignment and pre-college physical and immunizations.

Needless to say, there is no vacation planned for this summer.

Finally, our older dog, Sancho, is deteriorating. He's a doberman/lab mix and turned thirteen in January. He'd been walking a bit stiffly, but one day, his walking seemed very abnormal indeed, and the next day his back legs were mostly paralyzed. We were convinced he had a spinal cord tumor, since this is how our old old dog Luna died and I had to summon Ian - Sancho is his dog especially - to come home and say a final goodbye. (You probably think I was overreacting, but I was having flashbacks to Luna's last day of life.) The vet confirmed that the problem is Sancho's spinal cord, but he's not convinced it's a tumor. It might just be a bad back. "The top half of the dog," the vet boomed at us, "is totally normal."  We were overjoyed that we wouldn't have to put Sancho down and we're treating him with steroids. Meanwhile, we've taken the cushion off the couch and turned the living room into a geriatric dog unit. We had to put the couch frame in the hall, where it doesn't fit, but I guess it will come in handy for piling the dorm room supplies, so there's that.

Sancho doesn't appear to be in pain, so that's a blessing. He's also not incontinent, but getting him outside to relieve himself is a major ordeal that requires two people: one to restrain Phoebe and one to use every possible enticement to get Sancho out the door, such as pretending we see a squirrel. (Hence the need to restrain Phoebe.) It's pitiful to see him staggering, but he flat out refuses to move if we support his hind legs in a towel, as the vet taught us. If we try to carry him, he growls and we know from experience that he will bite out of fear. None of this is fun for any of us, least of all Sancho. Still, he's been on the steroids for three days now and it seems his hind legs are slightly less apt to collapse under him. It's a such a subtle improvement, it might just be wishful thinking. We'll see.

All of this dog drama happened on the day of the congressional baseball practice shooting and the Grenfell Tower fire in London and I was feeling unwell in general and trying to work from home and was reduced to tears by pissy work-related phone call from a doctor while I thought my dog was dying and then the terrible tension of waiting for the vet's verdict, so it was altogether an absolutely awful day.

Sancho on the day the paralysis started.

Our living room, for the foreseeable future.

But, to go full circle back to the water pipe project: In order to connect the new main to our house, it would have been necessary to tear up our driveway which would have torn up the invisible dog fence we embedded under the drive many years ago. I made a big fuss with firmly worded emails to the city with underlined sentences about how our dog was aggressive with other dogs and how the invisible fence was the only way to contain him. All I wanted was for them to find the fence line and splice it back together. What they did instead was obtain an enormous boring machine. The street is about six feet higher than our driveway, so they bored vertically into the street to the level of our waterline, then tunneled under a hill and our driveway, popped a small hole in the drive and hooked up the water, leaving the fence intact.

Of course, I'm appreciative of the effort they put into this. The irony of course, is that two weeks after the pipes were connected the big, scary, dog who needs this fence became paralyzed and now couldn't catch an infant and we no longer need the dog fence. Oh well. I suspect the street crew were pleased to get to use seriously big equipment that they don't usually need. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

The final chapter in this tale of woe is that Charlottesville has come to the attention of Neo-Nazis and the KKK, all because of a stupid statue of Robert E. Lee in a city park. Saturday night, a band of Nazis tried to cause trouble downtown, but there were no takers. The KKK is planning a demonstration here in July and there's an alt-right "March on Charlottesville" planned for August. It reminds me of the early 1990s, when we lived in Buffalo, which was taken over by radical, hateful, toxic pro-lifers. Both groups pretend to have innocuous agendas - "preserving history" and "respecting life" but in both cases, they are really about hatred, control, and suppression of women and minorities. Seriously, what a joke that people who say they're preserving history have amnesia about World War II.


  1. Life has been heavy lately - the day of the fire and the shooting, Betty had wandered down for something and remarked that the weather (very humid)was just adding to the feeling of 'heavy' that seems to persist lately.

    1. Yes, "heavy" is the perfect word to describe life lately.

  2. Not a great start to summer, that's for sure! We don't seem to have many conflict-generating Confederate monuments up here in our blue section of Northern VA, but we do have our share of homicidal wackos, unfortunately. This whole stupid year needs to call a do-over.

    1. I'm absolutely sick over the murder of the young girl outside her mosque last weekend. What are we becoming?

  3. I was thinking your situation sounded very stressful, and that was before I got to the part about your dog, and the KKK. I'm sorry things are that way, and I hope it improves for you. I agree with Becky that everything has a heavy feel right now. We are getting counter protesters now at our little weekly protest at our congressman's office. So far I have found those people to be obnoxious. We try our best to go high. And our area has been hit with destructive thunderstorms four days in a row. Everything is weird.

  4. Spending a hug to you and Sancho, who doesn't seem quite as scary as the sheepdog Sancho of my past. Hoping he does get better and things lighten up around you. I call bullshit on your company for canceling a federal holiday.
    Which college are you shipping off child 4 to this fall? I hope that goes well.

    1. Seamus is going to VCU in Richmond to study politics and journalism.