…Dogs are always happy to share their passion about being alive. It’s easy for them to lift our foul moods because dogs bring their joy with them wherever they go.
- Dogs Don’t Bite When a Growl Will Do: What Your Dog Can Teach You About Living a Happy Life, by Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber
This was a good first entry on my “Books Read 2021” list. With a distinctly Zen Buddhist background philosophy and a generous sprinkling of Western philosophers, this work by two authors writing as one (“I”) is not a book of rules for training (teaching) dogs but one that highlights dogs’ virtues and life lessons we can draw from a canine approach to living. The quote above is from Lesson 15, “Dogs Bring Joy With Them,” something no one who lives with dogs can doubt.
Sarah found the energy to wag her tail more than once on her last day of life. Peasy, now that he’s been sprung from his little concrete-floored prison cell, instead of moping around about how unfair life has been to him until recently, approaches each day with boundless enthusiasm. I get to run in the wash? Chase sticks? You’re giving me another meal? I get to go with you in the car? Life is GREAT!
Which brings us to the first item to be covered in today’s blog post:
The first couple of meals our new dog had under our care, he fell upon like a starving wolf. When I began the process of training him to “Wait!” for permission before attacking his dish, I had to restrain him physically for several days. When at last I got him to “Sit!” on command, even as he could see the desired breakfast or dinner dish in my hand, it was real progress, and now? Now he sees the dish and sits politely without the command. I put the dish on the floor, and even as he quivers with excitement and impatience he keeps his eyes on my face, not on his food, waiting until I tell him “Okay.”
|Here he closed his eyes briefly, perhaps to lessen temptation!|
Peasy had his introduction to my walking/hiking partner and her two dogs on Sunday morning. Therese and I had agreed that all three dogs would be on leashes and that she and I would first approach from opposite directions and pass each other without stopping, then walk the dogs in parallel, leash-holding humans on opposite sides of the wide dirt road. The dogs were interested in each other, and Peasy ducked behind my legs briefly when he first caught sight of them, but as the walk proceeded we all moved along in harmony. No growling or lunging or (from Peasy) cringing. Eventually butts were sniffed, and the oldest, calmest dog, Buddy, was allowed off his leash. On our second encounter, we will make the walk a little longer, but we humans are already very pleased with how things worked out the first time around. Sarah had so much fun being a seasonal member of Therese’s pack that I can’t help hoping Peasy will be able to fit in equally well.
Mr. Peasy has been pretty good on a leash right from the beginning. He sticks close to my left knee, right where he belongs. Nevertheless, I am adding regular on-leash walks to our morning routine, because our Sarah was good on a leash when young, but then, when she “needed” less and less to be leashed, our discipline fell away. That was my fault and not a mistake I want to repeat with Peasy.
He faces a couple of challenges, which is to say that I face a couple of challenges with him. The easier one to cure will be his jumping up on the bed before I get in, so eager is he for our evening pack time. He’s great about getting down after pack time, when we tell him “Go to bed now,” and is, as I’ve already said, very good about waiting for permission to dive into a meal, so teaching him to wait for permission to jump up on the bed shouldn’t take more than one or two lessons.
The second and bigger challenge is chewing things he should not chew. Peasy is a young dog with a lot of nervous energy, and I want to be a good dog mom for him but don’t want to be spending every waking minute in training, so to keep him out of trouble this morning (he kept yielding to the temptation of picking up one of my shoes in his mouth), I put his leash on and draped the leash across my knees while I worked at the table, not paying him any attention at all. Quickly he chose to lie down and wait patiently. So we’ll probably take that route for a while – when he rejects all his own chewing things as “old and boring!” – until he is ready to calm down without the leash. Which may take months, who knows?
Dog training, however, important and time-intensive as it must be, is not my only winter project. One that fell by the wayside over the holidays and with the addition of Peasy to the household is now, albeit in fits and starts, back on track, and that’s the one I call my Silas Project. Originally “His Time and Mine,” I described what I’ve gradually come to call “The Silas Project” this way:
It is a comparison of pre-Civil War American life with our life today in 2020-2021 America, a very personal comparison drawn from both periods, using a young man’s handwritten diary from the 19th century and my own journals, thoughts and reflections, all of it set in social and political context, historical and contemporary.
David pressed me one day for an “elevator pitch,” and that’s what I’ve came up with. As for genre, that’s a tough one. “Is it biography?” David asked. No, not really, though there is biographical material in it. Frankly, when I think about describing the project to anyone else, I wonder if I’ll be the only one who ever finds it fascinating. But I can’t worry about that now.
At this stage, the Silas Project is a sprawling, untidy mess, chapters inconsistent in terms of length or voice, the whole of Part One so rough overall that I think I have never written anything in my life more in need of deep, extensive editing – and by someone other than me! But that’s another thing I can’t think too much about right now. Right now the point is to keep pushing through, keep moving forward, from concept to first draft, however big a mess that might be.
I thought of beginning with politics and ending with Peasy, saving the best for last, but then I thought I’d probably lose the majority of you right off the bat if I started with politics. And much as I’d like to have it out of my life, too, on it goes, like the coronavirus….
Poor Donald Trump! The voice in his head, his father’s voice, tells him that if loses at anything, he’s a loser, and if he’s a loser, he’s worthless, he’s nobody. So while he lost the November election, he cannot admit it. He cannot bring himself to concede. Perhaps he truly cannot believe he lost. Who the hell knows?
Despite his claim to be a “stable genius,” it’s been clear since his days on the campaign trail that the 45th president was and is emotionally and mentally unsuited for the job of leading the world’s most powerful country. He has been, in office, what he always was: a weak, immature, morally stunted individual, unable to accept responsibility or live in truth. Over and over he has disgraced his office with public complaining, whining, threatening and blaming; time and again he has invented alternative fantasy “realities,” denying even his own well-documented and recorded statements; day after day, as each new outrage emanating from the White House disrespected American citizens and insulted reason itself, we said surely we had now heard “the worst” – and yet the outrages, the insults, the disrespect never slowed, let alone stopped.
Mental instability is a tragedy, but that of Donald Trump, 45thpresident of the United States of America, is not his personal tragedy, for he does not recognize it. He does not mourn his errors or lament his shortcomings. Rather, the tragedy of his presidency is suffered by the American people, his supporters no less than his opponents and critics.
I understand that there are people so wedded to a particular party that they cannot bring themselves to vote otherwise, regardless of the candidate put forward. I recognize the fact that some Americans are single-issue voters and would sacrifice every other value for the sake of the one issue they hold dearest. I even realize that some voters think “character” should not be taken into account when electing politicians. The last group probably describe themselves as “hard-headed realists.” What has saved us up until recently has been a general faith in our electoral system and a general consensus on facts.
The United States is unique among the world’s democracies in the length of time provided by our Constitution for the transition from the outgoing to the incoming administration. … In the two and one-half months from election to inauguration, the president-elect and his team must choose key White House officials and senior appointees for the cabinet and subcabinet; set a course for foreign policy; develop a domestic agenda and budget; and write an inaugural address summing up all this for the nation and the world. And this is happening when the president-elect and his team, giddy with victory but exhausted from the campaign, are under scrutiny as never before for clues about the new administration.
- President Carter: The White House Years, by Stuart E. Eizenstat
How long has it been, for how much of my life is it that I have found the transition period as nerve-wracking as the months of campaigning that preceded it? And has any American transition of executive power ever been as fraught with anxiety as what we are going through this January 2021?
But all responsibility for the present attacks on American democracy cannot be laid at the outgoing president’s door. Republican representatives and senators in Congress have had four years to come to grips with the truth -- that their emperor wears no gorgeous robes, i.e., that he is dangerously delusional. A single naked madman could not bring this country to its knees. The support of a greedy, powerful and yet still power-hungry majority leader in the Senate, however, has tipped the scale, and now other senators, all of whom should know better, are joining the howling mob and saying they will refuse to confirm the results of the Electoral College when those results are presented to them tomorrow. I am furious and ashamed to see that the U.S. Representative from my home district in Michigan is among this crowd of unprincipled rebels. Party of “law and order”? Adherence to the Constitution? Clearly, they’ve thrown all that overboard.
The Republican Party’s disdain for democracy is nothing new, but never has it been so shamelessly naked as in their present efforts to overturn election results that even honest officials from their own party, from local and county boards to governors to William Barr, recent Attorney General, have scrutinized repeatedly, finding no evidence whatsoever of the “widespread fraud” that the delusional president continues to argue “cheated” him of victory. Senators who compose the rebellious cabal (can it be a cabal if they are public rather than secret?) say they are responding to “legitimate concerns” about the election results. As an acquaintance of mine points out, the “concerns” largely originate with the man in the White House who lost his bid for re-election and cannot resist feeding the fears of his “base,” those who put him in office four years ago.
Feeding irrational fears, repeating and promoting falsehoods, dividing Americans, trashing our most cherished institutions – if this country and the world survive long enough, history is not going to cut the rebel senators much if any slack for selling their souls in 2020 and 2021. Their leader may be crazy, but what is their excuse?