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Izzy Doesn’t Care about Ferguson or NaNoWriMo but he does care about hard rain

I know that what’s going on in this country because of the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson is hot.  I get it.  I hate it, but I get it.  I wish we as a people didn’t have to be in this spotlight or having this conversation.  And I wish it wasn’t on my mind or so entrenched in social media because writing this blog post is stealing time from my other writing:  working on my novel and meeting my 50K word goal for National Novel Writing Month.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I wonder how many other writers have written thousands of words in the past couple of days about the subject of racism when they could have been adding pages to their fiction.  Yet, that’s what we do as writers.  We plead, we question, we inform.  We grieve.

But dogs, on the other hand, don’t see race.  They don’t question another animal’s motivations.  When Izzy sees another dog, he thinks PLAYTIME.  That word might as well light up in neon lights over his little head, because that’s what that dog represents to him.  When he sees a squirrel, he thinks CHASE.  Though he has become a bit smarter about that one and knows now that squirrels do that skip-hop-jump thing to the nearest tree and that they have little suction cups on their feet that allow them to run along telephone pole wires.  When he sees a cat, he thinks ATTACK.  Yup, I have a little dog that absolutely detests cats.  He doesn’t know why; he just knows he does.  They are the one animal at which he barks, and if he wasn’t leashed, I’m sure that poor cat would be mincemeat.  Natural enemies.  He doesn’t care what color they are or what their belief systems are, whether they have families or are nice, purring cats.  They’re just cats.

Wait.  Does that mean those who see another person who’s different from them are just like animals with natural enemies?

Nope, I’m not going there.

Let’s continue.  Izzy doesn’t care about Nanowrimo either; in fact, when I’m on the laptop, the only thing he’s concerned about is why the laptop is taking up his space on my lap.  Move over, you damn keyboard.  Let me sit there.  If I don’t finish my 50K words by the end of this month, it wouldn’t make any difference to him.  He wouldn’t notice if I was depressed about not winning.  Not on his radar.

But this morning when I woke up to the sound of hard rain against my rooftop, I thought:  perfect.  Bad weather = good excuse to stay in and catch up on my writing.  Izzy went to the door, let me put on his Thundershirt (for the cold/rain), and when I opened the umbrella, I could see his eyebrows raise.  Uh oh.  Do I have to go out in this crap?  Halfway through our morning walk, the rain became a downpour, tearing leaves off the trees in such a torrent that Izzy (checking out a place to poop) jumped and ran.  From that point on, there was no calm moment for my little dog.  He shivered as he tried to find just the right spot, kept looking around as if afraid the boogey man was under each leaf, and never did quite settle down enough to finish his business.  He pulled me back up the street to the house, jumped over the rushing water in the street gutter, didn’t pause to sniff the piles of leaves my neighbors had blown yesterday, kept looking back at me as if to say, Come on, woman, I’ve had enough of this!  And when we reached the back door, he darted in, then shook and shook and shook until I took off the soaked Thundershirt and dried him with the towel I keep in the sunroom.  He’s been hiding on his bed ever since, and I’d be willing to bet my last dollar that even though he’ll want to go out again sometime today, he’ll give me that look right before we leave the door that says, Isn’t this stuff falling from the sky ever going to stop?

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Single Baby Boomer with Dog Celebrates Thanksgiving with NaNoWriMo

For the past couple of days, every time I walked Izzy, it was cold and raining, and he didn’t want to poop.  Seriously.  That’s been my biggest problem for the last 48 hours.  We’d go out around the block, he’d stop and look, pee on his bushes, stop and look again, shoot me a sad “woe is me” puppy eye, sit down (seriously, Izzy???  It’s raining!), sniff a little, then look at the rushing water in the gutter, look up at me again, and consider that he didn’t want to jump it.  And wet leaves?  Lordie, they’re poison!  Who wants to walk through wet leaves and lower their butt to the ground to do their thing.  Not Mr. Izzy.  No way.  Sigh.

So, instead of our usual five walks a day, it’s been more like seven, and each time, I stand there, shivering, saying, “Good boy, Izzy.  Now, poop!  C’mon, Izzy, you can do it.”  And each time, he didn’t.  Until the second walk this morning, and by that time, I was already late for work, and he knew I was getting itchy — and irritated.  But at least it’s done, and I can relax.

I seem to remember going through the same thing last year at this time.  It was raining and cold.  I wasn’t excited about going out for walks and neither was Izzy.  It was our first year living in Roxboro, our first Thanksgiving together, my first holiday alone.  Ever.  This year makes two.  Second year living here, our second Thanksgiving together, my second Thanksgiving alone.  My savior?  Writing!

I’m convinced whoever conceived of National Novel Writing Month must have been single and hating facing the holidays alone.  The best way to get through them was to keep extraordinarily busy.  “Oh, I have an idea!  Why don’t I write a novel during November?  Commit to at least 50K words on the page, then I can take December to do some rewriting (or finish the novel) and by January, I’ll have a bright and shiny new story to start sending out to agents and editors.”

It works.  

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Last year, I sat at my desk over the long Thanksgiving weekend and almost finished the first draft of a novel (I’m not dumb enough to send something that new out in January; I’m going to do another rewrite of it in February and March, which means the novel will have gone through at least three-four drafts before it hits an agent’s/editor’s desk), and I certainly felt better that I had survived the holiday — and was productive doing so.

This year, I’m rewriting a novel that was originally part of my dissertation.  This one has gone through enormous structural changes, so even though I’m not committing 50K NEW words during this NaNoWriMo, I feel like I’m writing something even more valuable to me:  a polished manuscript.  This one might be ready in January or February.  Depends on what my reader says when she finishes it over the Christmas holidays.

I’m sure I’m not the only Baby Boomer with a dog who’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving alone.  Though most of my single friends are escaping to the warmth of a family member or friend’s house to share the turkey and the gossip and the silly jokes Aunt Milly never understands, there are plenty of us who’ll be huddled over a laptop, our favorite canine (or feline) faithfully keeping us company and making us take breaks from the writing to walk the cold, rainy streets.  

Here’s to those of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with our animals!  Cheers to all those wagging tails and warm noses.  I give thanks to them for keeping us all sane — and far from lonely.

Izzy Wears a Thundershirt in the Rain

Raining, cold, miserable weather.  Not the kind that makes me want to jump out of bed, click the leash on Izzy and head out for a 6 AM walk, but when you have a dog, you don’t have much of a choice.  The funny thing is that Izzy doesn’t like walking in the rain either.  He stops at the back door, looks up at me, out toward the yard and back to me again as if to say, “Seriously, woman?  You want me to go out in THAT?”  I pull him off the stairs, he tucks his ears, then obediently trots at my side, but when it comes to a puddle.  Whoa!  Pull up here!  Then a big leap over the offensive water and we’re off — really quickly — to do “the thing.”

When I lived in an apartment complex on the third floor, the storms would echo through the meadow we faced.  It was truly spectacular to see flashes of lightning from that height, and the repeating booms of thunder made the pictures on my walls rock.  Exciting for me.  Not so much for Izzy.  He would run from room to room, tail between his legs, as if he couldn’t find a space safe enough to sit and hide.  

I did some research and found a place right in Durham that had invented a shirt for animals that purported to calm their anxiety, whether it was thunderstorms or fear of something else that made them turn into whining balls of nerves.  They called their product a Thundershirt.  It looked like a piece of gray flannel with Velcro.  Unassuming.  I wondered what could be so magical about this gray flannel shirt that would calm down the most anxious of animals.  

I spent a lot of time on their website, read all of the success stories, watched the videos, perused the research about how the Thundershirt cured anxiety in 80% of the animals (dogs and cats) who wore it.  No matter whether it was thunderstorms or separation anxiety, the Thundershirt would cure it.

I looked at Izzy, thought about his fear of the thunderstorm, but even more so, I thought about his fear of human beings.  At 9 months old, my little Shichon had a terrible attitude toward people in general.  He charged strangers, barking and growling so fiercely that no one would come near him.  It wasn’t fun.

So I tried it.

Within five minutes of putting on the shirt, Izzy curled into a ball and went to sleep on the floor next to my bed.  Meanwhile, a thunderstorm that wouldn’t quit for hours raged on outside.  He could have cared less.

Success!

Today, Izzy really doesn’t pay attention to storms, but he still doesn’t like rain, so when it’s a dreary, rainy day like it is today, we put on his Thundershirt and it keeps him dry while he’s outside.  I still have to rub him down with a towel when we come home because his head and paws get wet, but his body is dry, and he absolutely loves putting on that shirt.  Amazing.

Having a dog that’s only half wet is much better than having one that is soaked to the skin — even if that dog’s ‘fur’ is really hair.

I’m not doing a commercial for this product, but if you’re interested, here’s the link:  http://www.thundershirt.com/

(And here’s Izzy on our walk when it’s dry!)

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Izzy and the Frog

               Sometimes in North Carolina it rains for days.  When that happens, there are moments when it seems like the rain is no longer water by infinitesimal frogs that sprout to full size once they hit the ground like those magic towels that when touched by water grow to ten times their packaged size.   The frogs magically appear on my driveway.  Different sizes.  Some green, some brown, some wart-y, some smooth, all miraculously arriving with the onslaught of rain.

               Izzy is thoroughly confused by frogs.  When we walk past them and they scatter in a dozen hopping directions, he is at once scared and confused.  He wants to follow them wherever they hop, but he doesn’t know which way to go since there are so many moving at once.  He lifts up his white paws and puts them down again, dancing to the left and to the right, then bouncing when a frog bumps into him or flies past his nose.  He looks at me, then to the frogs, then to me again, as if to ask, “What the hell are these things and where did they come from?”

               There are a few more in the road, but the cars passing by keep the frogs to a minimum.  They don’t carpet the road like they do my driveway.  Instead, they move to the side when a vehicle sloshes through. 

               Izzy takes a flying leap over the running rivulet on the side of the road.  He doesn’t like getting his feet wet.  And he accuses me with a dirty look that says, “Do we really need to be out here right now?  We could have waited you know.  I hate getting wet.” 

               I hate getting wet, too, but if we don’t go out, Izzy’s schedule gets all befuddled and he begins to have accidents.  Better to get wet than to poop on the rug, so we move on through the warm rain.

               Once he’s done and we can head home—me maneuvering with the umbrella, trying to stay away from low-hanging branches, and Izzy navigating his way around puddles and downed branches—he picks up speed, pulling me with an urgency that speaks of a need to get into the house and under a warm towel.  But there’s a frog waiting in the driveway.  A fat one with lots of bumps and knolls on his back. 

               Izzy sees him and turns to me, asking once again what thing this is.  He pauses, stiff-legged and ears cocked, barks a small woof and bounces once.  The frog doesn’t move.  Izzy does a little tarantella around the frog, staying clear of the frog’s hopping sphere.  Still, the frog doesn’t move.  The rain abates just a bit, so I stand and watch, trying really hard not to laugh at the drama unfolding in front of me.  Izzy gives another little “woof.”  The frog twitches.  Izzy does a puppy bow: Eye-to-eye with the frog that has now turned into stone.  I wonder where the rest of the frogs went.  This one now seems like the only one left on the driveway, and he’s a big one.  For the longest time, the frog and Izzy face off.  Finally, Izzy moves, and just as quickly, the frog takes a flying leap.  Right onto Izzy’s nose. 

               I think if there were one word in the English language that Izzy could have said at that moment, it would have been, “Shit!”

               So, I said it for him.  

ImageIzzy in his wet state and mad!).