Untethered Dog

You Never Know Where He Will Go

Making People Happy Since 2007

We passed a young woman on our walk last night. She walked with her head down. Her head, aside from her face, was covered by a snug-fitting a hoodie. Her head never came up — she could see, I presume, the sidewalk a few feet in front of her and that is about it. I am certain she saw my dog, however, for her eyes stayed on him for some steps, and, at the moment of passing, she looked straight down at him and smiled.

There are significant health benefits to a hearty smile: pain relief, stress relief, improved mood, and lower blood pressure among them. Smiling might, in fact, enhance longevity.

I think of that woman. I think, too, of the all the other people my dog has made smile while we have been out and about: whether we pass a woman, a man, a family on the street, whether we see the faces of kids light up in the back seat of their parents’s cars (“look Mom!” they will say and point at him), or whether we are in a store as we were the day before and a woman walked over expressly to pet him a second time (if you own a shop and you let me bring my dog inside you have made at least one additional regular customer). It would be impossible to calculate … yet in more than eleven years of walking and driving and shopping and sitting on park benches … you would have to say the number of people my dog has made smile is easily in the thousands.

Every part affects the whole. Thousands of people who otherwise might not have had a reason are given a moment of pain relief, stress relief, a break from their depression, a boost in in their mood, all by the creature at end of the leash in my hand. Consider the total chemical-biological reaction in the world that represents.

That right there makes me raise high the corners of my own mouth.

What You Can Find Between the Cushions

I remember the day, if not the date, that I lost my iPod Shuffle.

It was early in the morning, still dark, and I was on my way into the gym. Somehow and somewhere in the 10 feet between the front seat of my car and the front door of the gym dropped the Shuffle — and knew it.

I looked in the bushes, under the car, between and behind the seats. As I had not purchased it long before, I went back later that same day to make sure it had not landed underneath another car now gone. I went back to make sure it wasn’t in a bush. Dropping it, that was not hard for me to believe I had done. Not being able to find it … it had. To be. Right. Here.

Certainly. this was at least a year ago. I know that much because of how long it’s been since I belonged to that gym and how low the low light was when I went in to run that day. I had at one point after that attempted to replace Shuffle but was told Target didn’t carry them anymore. Eventually, I moved on. Eventually, I forgot I lost it. I found other means to get my tunes while running, while rowing. I used another device to listen to podcasts while falling asleep.

One of the underrated things in this life is the ability to vacuum your own car at your own home — no quarters needed. Which I did yesterday for the first time.

Several minutes into said vacuuming I pushed the seat way up, poked the vacuum arm around and — yep, you guessed it — my little blue Shuffle slipped onto the backseat floor right in front of me.

I had, of course, left the thing on and it to have been dead for at least 13 months. The orange light was so weak when I plugged it in I suspected I was not going to be able to resuscitate. Yet last night I fell asleep listening to a Sam Harris podcast. This morning I woke up listening to a Bruce Springsteen song.

It’s alive!

The Word is Sword

In our writing group the format is as follows. After intros and a reading of the rules, the organizer says aloud a word, one word only,, and for 30 minutes we write in silence. Most take up the word in some direct or indirect way, though it is not in the rules that you must do so. After the time expires, we go around the room and each person is given a chance to read (which is optional).

Until joining last year, I had not before been in such a group. The format allows one to tailor the time to his or her personal aims — whether to augment their writing practice in a general way, to help with a specific project, or, I suppose, or to engage in what some might describe as a form of therapy. For me, given that writing is such a solitary act, I appreciate the chance to transact words on the page while in the company of other writers. I like, too, that I am placed in a position to go at some writing in a way that I never otherwise would have. Also, we have coffee after.

Today’s word? Sword. Here, unedited, are the words I wrote in response to that one:

I had one — and only one — sword when I was a kid. I got it at the Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney World. It came in a black sheath. It made a sound when you pulled it from the sheath quickly so as to be ready to chop down an intruder.

Except we lived in the suburbs. There were no intruders.

This does not mean I understood there would be no introducers.

In fact, I felt sure that we would get some introducers. So at night, after everyone else was asleep, I would tip-toe upstairs to the front door and check the lock. Almost always, the lock was locked. But one time it wasn’t. So I locked the lock as fast as I could so that we would not get any intruders. So that I would not have to quickly pull out of its sheath — voosh! — my Pirates of the Caribbean sword and chop down those intruders.

The Little Things

As you approach during the morning walk you see the man on his stoop. Your impression registers in an instant. He is wearing a ragged T-shirt. His hair looks hasn’t been washed this week, the strands look like electricity. It is unusual to be dirty this early. The takes a drag from his cigarette. You steer your dog to the far-side sidewalk. You keep your distance. You can be so wrong about people sometimes.

“That looks like a happy dog,” the man says. He smiles. He holds the smile.

You are glad he couldn’t see in your heart right back there. You want him to see inside it just now.

“Thank you for saying so, sir. You have a good day.”

“You have yourself a good day, too.”

Sign of Progress

Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states.

In the Normal Range

I waited longer than I had to in order to find out how my thyroid is doing sans the levothyroxine. The longer the wait, the more accurate the snapshot. The test results are now in: my thyroid still can produce thyroid hormone. I am in the so-called “normal” range.

Two reactions to this news.

First: wow. It is something of an upset that my body can do this. For fifteen years, I didn’t ask my thyroid to do its part to move this vessel. Now I am asking and it is saying, “aye aye, captain.” I am proud of myself for trying and I am grateful that it seems possible I may succeed. I may very well be able to successfully come off a medication I was told by many medical professionals I would need to take until I return to the ground.

Second: I don’t feel exactly “normal.” Mostly, this is a matter of energy. Once I get into the day I notice little difference from before stopping the medication. But getting going in the morning is a slower process and the crash everyone feels at the end of the day, well, I often feel that earlier than I used to and that crash is sometimes more pronounced. This is not surprising, for while I am producing a “normal” amount of hormone my body is not creating as much as I had in my system while on the medication. My TSH scores are higher than they have been for at least years (meaning, less hormone.)

Like everything else, it is a work in progress. I will test again in another month or so. In the meantime, I will do what I can to help the boys keep me afloat: diet, exercise, rest, relax, repeat. In other words, the antidote to most any minor malady.

Pants With a Hole in the Butt

I’ve got a pair of pants — actually PJs — with a hole in the butt.

One morning, this was not too many weeks ago, I was doing some air squats. I went down and up, down and up, down and …. rrrrrrpt!

I have since washed the PJ pants. More than once, if you must know.

I have not sewn up the hole in the butt.

I have not replaced the pants.

I have worn the pants and washed the pants and worn them again.

The pants are a dark plaid.

I have never especially liked the pants. These feelings I have for the pants predate the rip.

I am wearing the pants right now, in fact.

And you want to know something else? The dog doesn’t seem to mind.

Save Us From Ourselves

Consider the seatbelt. Under the law, you must wear one. Why should this be? The intent of a seatbelt, of course, is to protect a person in a car from getting hurt in the event of a sudden stop, car malfunction, accident, or so forth. Yet why is there a law that I says I must protect myself from such an injury? I can see why there must be such a law for minors. They may not be old enough to fully understand the possible consequences of not wearing a seatbelt. But an adult who qualifies for a license to drive a vehicle … shouldn’t she or he be able to make a determination as to whether to put themselves in bodily harm?

To be clear, I am grateful for the law. I do know bad things could happen to me if I don’t wear a seatbelt while driving. Yet, sans the law, I would, no doubt, go without one from time to time. I would do this out of laziness. Or forgetfulness: some years ago I got pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt — I had driven not even two full blocks, going from one business to another. I was pulled over as I entered a small parking lot. I recall this incident every time I start my car before strapping in.

Too, such a law does more than protect me — it protects others. If I get hurt unnecessarily during, say, an accident involving another driver, that driver might have greater problems, financially and/or emotionally, to deal with as a result. It is also certain that my unnecessary injuries or death would cost society in terms of hospital bills and site cleanup, not to mention possible increased insurance premiums as I skew the stats. Indeed, you can make the argument in favor of the seatbelt law strictly on the grounds that society would pay too much a price if seatbelts were optional.

Which leads me to wonder: why do we outlaw certain such self-afflicting behaviors but not others?

Why, for example, is an otherwise healthy person able to weigh 100, 200, 300 or more pounds over the high end range of healthy weight without facing a no-seatbelt-like fine? (Again, excepting persons with untreatable and diagnosable conditions. I will also addd that at one time in my early adulthood I would have likely qualified for this fine.) The cost to society in terms of health care alone is substantial. I don’t think it would be hard to make the case that French fries and donuts cause more harm than unclicked seatbelts.

Further: Why are cigarettes legal? Alcohol? Soda? Candy? Fox News?

Understand, I am not advocating Prohibition. If everything bad for you were outlawed … first of all, what a boring society we would have — there goes every food booth at the State Fair, save for maybe pickle-on-stick — and what a restriction on personal freedom we would experience. (No doubt, I will have fries with that.)

It is curious, though, what we choose to protect ourselves against and what we choose not to protect ourselves against.

Anyway, time to hit the road. Please be sure to buckle up. By the way, if you are not yet done with your 64-ounce Mountain Dew, no worries, you can finish it along the way.

Morning Light

After the morning walk, we sit on the back step. Soon, I will need to get into the shower. It is, after all, a work day. But that can wait. We have a few ticks. Thank you for coming close. And letting me look with you. At the sun coming through the tree. Thank you for letting me listen with you. To the birds tweeting from the top of the shrubs. Thank you for taking your journey with me. See there! The last drops from last night’s rain slip off the leaves and fall to the ground.

Hangover, Too

You can, of course, experience a hangover without having first consumed any amount of alcohol or drugs. The body reacts to just about any over indulgence.

I staggered out of bed yesterday morning and tried to pry my eyes open — about needed a power tool — as lightning reflected through my living room window like the last slow turns of a disco ball. I didn’t immediately recognize that the lightning was, in fact, lightning. I wondered for a hot minute if the cops were outside.

Is the party over, ocifer?

I wrote a lot the day before. It is how I started my day. It is how I ended my day. I wasn’t so much as in a groove as I had a deadline. I could not sleep on the piece even one more night. And, of course, the daily rounds — work, workout, dog duties, dishes — did not take a vacation (well, maybe the dishes got something of a rest). It was the proverbial long-ass day.

One of the body’s reactions I can count on after deadline is the need for immediate stress release. After sending the piece I was way past tired but still well wired, as they say, and I had already stayed up even later than late to finish the writing. Meanwhile, dinner had been cheap and easy and almost entirely carby.

Deadlines are essential for me or else I might not ever finish. And as someone with a fair amount of experience in higher education, this time of year brings back memories of the rush to wrap up a term, a year, a degree. These are unique times, some call them stressful times, and, to be sure, I don’t enjoy every minute of them. Generally, it’s not advised to go to extremes. Yet sometimes you must. And I feel uniquely alive on deadline days and nights. I think to myself “what if I could always keep up this pace. Think of how much I could get done.”

The body has an answer to that sort of mind distortion, of course. And usually, at least for me, that answer is felt the very next morning.