Friday, January 8, 2010
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Solo is ten years old, and the only old dog I’ve ever lived with. Fly is actually older than Solo, but she seems younger than Solo as she’s in better shape and still hurtling through the world. Solo, by contrast, is a long-retired prizefighter, grave and mellow and carrying the scars of his previous lives within a burly and slowly failing body. The aftermath of an old injury, incurred before I knew him, ruined his right hip, and the ways he has altered his gait over the years to compensate for his hip have corrupted his back. When he was young, when I first knew him, Solo was fast and strong and inexorable, and I kind of thought of him as the Incredible Hulk: intellectually brilliant, mentally unstable, and physically indestructible. But now he is stiff and damaged and deliberate, although his physical presence still evokes a feeling of threat and power, like the big hands and swollen knuckles of an old man who remembers how to tie on a pair of boxing gloves.
I like taking Solo for walks alone now, without the other two dogs, now that we have the luxury of a yard and everyone doesn’t have to go every time we go out. Walking Solo is a particular pleasure because Solo has never been allowed to run ahead of me on walks – it isn’t wise, as his reputation for bad-assedness is not undeserved – so he has always walked right beside me, and I can just reach down a smidge with my hand as I walk and touch his soft, rumpled ears. It’s almost as good as holding hands. No, actually, it’s probably better.
When we walk it’s like old times, before the other two dogs came along, except that the walks we take are different now. When Solo was young, he and I looked for big, open expanses that lent themselves to long throws, places where he could run flat out, and where I could see in all directions in case anyone else came along. Now that he is old, and slow, and doesn’t worry so much about passers-by anymore, we take pointless meandering walks through cluttered landscapes, where there is a lot to poke your nose into and plenty of sign to sniff. Solo shuffles along and reads every single tree, signs a lot of them, and I don’t prod him to hurry and catch up because without the other two shooting off ahead of us, there’s no need. We don’t play ball much anymore, because I am afraid I will break him if I do. Our walks are more interesting now. I stop and look around. I watch squirrels chase each other through the branches. I peek up at the sky through the trees, and sometimes I see eagles.
Solo loves to go with us when we gather chanterelles deep in the forest, because we’re all going nose to the ground, searching, doing just what he does. I’ll look up from a promising spot under the pine needles, and Solo will be there, smiling at me, waving his gallant tail gently. “Isn’t this great!” I like taking him to look for mushrooms because there are never any other people out there and we can go where we please. Sometimes I walk him in a cemetery on campus that is in the process of being overgrown and forgotten (most of the residents there died during the early 1900s), and we encounter other cemetery walkers there. When we do, I alter our trajectory a little so that Solo doesn’t have to encounter them, just in case. There was a time when I would have been ashamed of doing this, because it is an admission that even after almost ten years together I have failed to fix him and that Solo still has his demons. But you know what, I don’t care about that anymore. Solo has nothing left to prove to me or anyone else.
One of the luxuries of getting old is that people finally accept you for exactly what you are. I don’t know if it’s because people are more tolerant of the aged out of respect, or because people just don’t expect anything of the aged because they think the aged are too old to change. Either way, I have stopped worrying about all of the things that Solo is not. I have always loved him for exactly who he is, but I no longer look ahead to some indistinct point in the future when he will be better than he is now. I just enjoy him. Solo acts as though he understands literally everything I say; I would not be surprised if he actually does. I believe that this level of connection is something that comes only after you have been with a dog for a long time, and when that dog is old.
It will be very difficult to watch Solo fail in the years to come, as I know he will, but we are enjoying the last evening light together, that glorious golden light that comes just before sunset, late in summer, just as the days are beginning to shorten. May it be a very long summer evening, and a very, very slow sunset.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Brooks PJ, Enoch M-A, Goldman D, Li T-K, Yokoyama A (2009) The Alcohol Flushing Response: An Unrecognized Risk Factor for Esophageal Cancer from Alcohol Consumption. PLoS Med 6(3): e1000050. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000050
I never thought I'd see the term "Asian glow" used in a scientific publication. (I always used to call it "Asian heat.")
Anyway, this is pretty important stuff: turning pink when you drink not only means you look silly at parties, but it may also mean you have an increased risk of contracting esophageal cancer. This hasn't gotten the play in the media that it might have if it were something that applied particularly to people of African or European ancestry, so I thought I'd do my tiny part to get the word out there.
I've never been much of a drinker, for precisely this reason. Well, not because I was worried about getting esophageal cancer, but because girls don't look very cute when flushed bright red from head to toe, and when one is at a party one is often concerned with looking cute. I am glad to now have a medical justification for not being able to knock them back like some of my friends can.
You have been warned.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
My friend April Nowell (University of Victoria) and I recently published a critique of Kohn's and Mithen's "sexy handaxe theory" (short version: it is untestable and therefore not scientific) in PaleoAnthropology (February 2009). And this is very cool, and also very cool is that the paper was mentioned in the Random Samples section of Science on February 27 (volume 323, issue 5918, p. 1151). I guess this makes me slightly scientifically notorious, at least for the next five minutes or so.
I have recently discovered that I am also slightly notorious in the context of my avocation as a crazy dog lady. A haiku that I wrote several years ago for a BaggageAgility (an email list for people doing agility with rescued dogs) contest called "Ode to a Pre-Owned Dog" appears in a bunch of seemingly random hits should one choose to Google my name, something that I do occasionally because I am human. I am no poet, much less a haiku writer, but I am glad that people like it. I think it was written for a T-shirt contest or something, but I never got a T-shirt so I guess I didn't win.
Ode to a Pre-Owned Dog, by Melanie Lee Chang
How can it be that
Someone else didn't want you?
What an idiot.
How can it be that
Someone else didn't want you?
What an idiot.
Have a nice weekend, everyone.