Monday, November 24, 2008

Seamus the Greyhound

Seamus, my dog with little brain, has finally found his calling. He is a greyhound in disguise. Who knew?

Jealousy led to the creation of this "incredible hulk"-type transformation. It is a powerful motivator.

First, let me backtrack a bit:

Ziggy, Danny and Brandy's 7-month old labrador, has been living with us since early August. It is quite apparent that a happy and peaceful house is predicted upon and inversely correlated to Labrador Exercise. It is not sufficient to take Ziggy for hour-long walks around the neighborhood. This activity is good only for dachshunds. The Zigrador requires vigorous exercise. Real vigorous - the kind that induces huffing and puffing and sweating on the part of the exercisor.

So - Brandy and I began taking Ziggy for runs. He runs while one of us pedals my bicycle. Over the past couple months, he has gotten quite good at running on the "house" side of the sidewalk and stopping (on a dime) when the pedaler yells "Stop!" (A good safety feature.)

A couple of weeks ago, the brown dog started going into jealousy overload. He just couldn't stand it when the puppy got to go running and he had to stay INSIDE. As a joke, I leashed Seamus up and took him for a lap. It was a disaster, with the brown dog all over the place, determined to knock me over and strangle himself - while in full motion, naturally.

But, because hope always springs eternal in my heart when it comes to the brown dog, I leashed him up and tried again. He tried to kill me several times with unfortunate leash entanglement accidents - always involving the leash, the running dog, me, and a high rate of speed. Staying on the same side of the fire hydrants and streetlights were merely suggestions for Seamus. Several instances of me sprawling out flat and the bike going sideways led to near strangulation for Seamus. Near death is a good teacher.

Seamus is not a natural hiker. He goes because we all go, but he starts making excuses early on to flop under bushes and take frequent breaks. He never wants to keep on going when we stop for water, like Duke and Augie. He would be perfectly content to turn around after about 8 minutes or so.

But for some reason, Seamus loves running. His short legs just pump away and there is a smile planted across his face as we fly around the neighborhood, up and down hills, in and out of driveways and avoiding trash cans and cars parked across the sidewalks.

On the downhill stretch, Seamus pulls ahead of me and it is all I can do to keep him from pulling me like a water skier around the corner, onto the flatland stretch behind the house. He runs on my right side, away from Ziggy, who is running off-leash on my left. Occasionally, Seamus cuts in front and then pulls to the left, just to ensure that the view on the laborador's side isn't better than his own. He gives token barks to the neighborhood dogs and just keeps right on running.

Today he ran 5 laps and didn't try to kill me at all. This is a new record.

I wonder if he thinks he is a greyhound?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Need Ink? Call Utah....

Yesterday, one of my teaching colleagues stayed late to gather the materials needed for next week’s language arts lessons. She sorted the black line masters, made a list of which teacher on her team needed what, figured out the numbers of copies, and carefully paper-clipped everything together with detailed instructions for the clerk who does the school’s major copying.

When she arrived in the work room, however, she noticed a sign on the duplicating machine. It was out of ink – again. My friend then walked up to the school office to ask the secretary about the status of the duplicator’s ink order. The secretary replied that yes, she had placed an order several weeks ago for a box of ink. Each box costs $38.50 and holds two ink cartridges. The district office was holding the purchase order because the budget is frozen. No money can be spent from the district’s depleted coffers – so the duplicating machine has no ink and a fresh supply is not forthcoming because, Virginia, there is no Ink Fairy.

We discussed asking teachers to chip in so that a box of duplicating machine ink could be purchased. This would cost less than spending time and money at Kinko’s over the weekend. We discussed trying to do without copies at all – but some skills just have to be practiced with paper and pencil.

But the best idea is to go to the Mormon church and ask for a box of duplicating ink. Not all of my colleagues agree with me on this one, but my ideas tend to be a bit outlandish sometimes.

I figure it works this way: The Mormon church outspent every other denomination supporting efforts to pass Proposition 8 and deny homosexuals the right to marry. It bothers them immensely that “Adam and Steve” want a wedding cake, a gift registry, and to file a joint tax return. The church phone-banked out of Utah to sway California voters on this issue. Coupled with deceptive television ads that scared John and Jane Q. Public into thinking schoolteachers were drafting lesson plans to “teach same sex marriage,” the strategy worked and the Proposition was passed by a narrow margin.

America is a democracy and this church, along with countless others in our nation, have the right to express their opinions on this matter and put their money where their collective mouths are – such is the sanctity of freedom of speech. As any basic philosophy class will teach you, all rights are coupled with responsibility. If public education is “the great equalizer” in a democratic society, then the public has the responsibility to ensure that the institution of education is adequately supported.

Since Arnold and his fiscally irresponsible state legislature can’t seem to properly fund education in California, maybe the Mormon church can help out. A box of duplicating ink costs around $40.00 and we could use some a couple boxes of Kleenex too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Family Drama Cycle

This morning, I hopped on my bicycle to take the dogs for a run. I can’t run all the dogs at once so we take turns. First up is always Ziggy, because the energy of the Labrador puppy is something that needs to be expended early in the morning if you want to drink coffee in peace. I ride a quarter mile loop around the neighborhood, staying on the sidewalk for the safety of the dogs. I see neighbors on occasion, but rarely get entertained with family drama. This morning was an exception.

Loop 1: Ziggy is running at top speed and I am pedaling furiously. When we reach Argyle Lane, we see the garage door open at the corner house and Todd, the 15-year old resident, come out in his pajama bottoms, gray tee shirt, and a motorcycle.

Loop 2: Ziggy is still running at top speed and I am pedaling furiously. I am grateful that nobody has parked their car across the sidewalk and that the path has been clear of any obstructions. Todd is pushing the motorcycle up the street. I am venturing a guess that he is trying to start it. He looks pained.

Loop 3: Ziggy is running and I am pedaling. His tongue is hanging from the side of his mouth but he doesn’t let up except to double check that I am still there. Todd is now sitting on the motorcycle with a scowl on his face. He scowls at me and Ziggy. Ziggy runs over to comfort him but Todd does not respond and Ziggy catches up with me. My “good morning, scowling teenage boy,” went unanswered.

Loop 4: Ziggy is running at a fast trot by now and I am encouraging him by pedaling faster. Saliva is escaping the side of his mouth and I can hear him panting. Todd is now cursing the motorcycle and kicking it with his pajama-clad leg. The effect is somewhat comical but I refrain from laughing since snarling teenage boys lack a sense of humor, especially at their expense from middle aged bicycling women. Ziggy refrains from running over to Todd. I think it was the kicking – but I am not sure. Maybe the Zigrador was just getting tired.

Loop 5: Ziggy and I go around the loop on an even keel. He runs and I pedal and we reach Argyle Lane to hear Todd in the garage yelling at his mother. The motorcycle is on the ground and Todd is generous with words that include the Father and Son but not the Holy Ghost. I am not thinking these are church-going words or that Todd and his mother are having a prayer session. I pedal faster because this scowling mood of his has gotten worse and I don’t want him kicking anything else.

Loop 6: Ziggy has entered the house for water and breakfast. He is replaced by Seamus, the brown dog, who has taken well to bicycle runs. He is very cute with his short little legs pumping away and his pink little tongue hanging out. We see Todd’s mother backing the big blue truck out of the garage and Todd waiting on the motorcycle. He is shouting directions at her and she is looking wearing sunglasses and looking annoyed. I don’t look inside the truck long enough to notice details, but I get the impression Mom is wearing jammies and hasn’t brushed her hair yet.

Loop 7: Seamus continues to run and I continue to pedal. I am wondering if I should take him another loop. When we pass our house, the brown dog keeps going, so I guess the answer is YES. When we turn onto Argyle Lane, the big blue truck is slowly driving up the street. Todd has apparently affixed the recalcitrant motorcycle to the back of the truck. He is yelling at his mother to “F%$#%@ slow down!” as she guns the engine. I don’t think that Todd is happy. We cycle past and I call, “Good morning!” to Mom.“ She waves back and Todd continues to shower his mother with expletives. He is liberal with the F-word and I refrain from calling him a potty mouth. I reflect on his use of the word as an adjective and a noun. This is a versatile word.

Loop 8: Seamus is still going like the energizer bunny. We cycle at an even pace and I have to slow down a bit on Argyle because he is beginning to lag a little. Mom is still attempting to pull Todd and his motorcycle and she has inched up the street a few houses. Todd continues to scream at his mother and every other word begins with an F. She is, according to him, not only “F^%$#%@$ stupid,” she “F%$#%@ can’t hear.” I nod to Patty and she gives me a half wave. I reflect upon the disrespect that the scowly, potty-mouth boy is showing to his mother. I call out to her that she should run the motorcycle over. She smiles and nods and Todd unleashes a stream of expletives regarding his mother’s hearing, driving abilities, and intelligence level. He refrains, however, from kicking anything, since he appears pinned beneath the motorcycle. His NFL football jammies are getting dirty but I refrain from offering laundry tips.

Loop 9: Seamus still does not want to stop so we go for a fourth loop. The brown dog is slowing down but still trotting. We reach Argyle Lane and there is no big blue truck, no annoyed mother, and no snarling, potty-mouth teenage boy. There is no motorcycle and all is quiet. I wonder if she just gave up and pulled the truck back into the garage. Had she run over the motorcycle and the boy, it would have been messy. There is no evidence of carnage, no matter how well-deserved.

Loops 10 and 11: It is now Augie’s turn. There is no sign of life on Argyle Lane. In a way I am disappointed.

Loop 12: Duke trots along the bike for one lap. We stop and visit a neighbor for a few minutes and Duke shivers, shakes, and yips at me to get going. We finish our loop and head home.

So ends our Sunday morning drama.