We let you go

We let you go

A few weeks ago we said goodbye to Haddler. My boys’ best buddy, our four-legged son, our family’s companion for the past 10+ years. He was, as I suspect everyone else’s dog is, special. Widely known among our family and friends as the Dumbest Puppa, he was also the sweetest and most loved.

You see, Haddler was probably the only dog in the universe (and do note I am including the Jetsons’ dog Astro, and the Two Stupid Dogs from the cartoons) that did not have the capacity to discern when people didn’t actually like him. No, he was an equal opportunity giver of unabashed canine affection, demonstrated by excited jumping (on the actual person), vigorous whole-butt tail wagging, and leaning on people until he was literally sitting on their toes or they fell down, whatever came first. This could be quite dangerous, as Haddler was, at his skinniest, 89 pounds (106 last we checked). This is bigger than many humans, including my mother-in-law. He even loved going to the vet, as this entailed a lot more people petting him and telling him he was a good boy. He got so excited when he went to the vet, he couldn’t even eat the cookies they gave him. He had no time for eating when there was petting to be had.

This exuberance often got him in trouble, not that he noticed. One time, in our previous house in CT, there were visitors at our neighbor’s house. This neighbor was a retired gentleman who, for some reason, thought Haddler was a girl and called him Heather – he was okay with the dog coming to see him once in a while; however, this time his little grandchildren were playing in the yard. Well, Haddler takes off like his tail is on fire soon as I opened the door and ran straight to the poor little kids. Panic and screams ensue, the grandfather tries to get the dog off his children (presently on the ground, with dog jumping around them), gets a stick and starts waving it in front of Haddler, hoping to scare him… and the blessed dog wags his entire body in joy. I had to go pull him by the collar with the dog literally lying on his side so that I had to drag his dead weight for what felt like an entire football field.

Haddler back deck-7.11.10

But that was the way he was. He lacked the instinct you hear all dogs have that enables them to perceive fear and dislike, as well as sympathy, so that they can behave themselves accordingly.

Haddler was a Golden Retriever, not that he ever retrieved a thing. He loved to play in the yard with the boys or my husband, and would take off to fetch the sticks they threw for him. Once the stick was located, he would grab it and run IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF THE THROWER. Sometimes he would bring the stick back, but never relinquish it – it would become a new game of tug until the stick was effectively destroyed. Most times he’d come back, sans stick, and wait excitedly for another stick to go fetch and lose.

Haddler in the backyard

His doggie brain understood two commands – His favorite was “Sit”, because it was invariably followed by some sort of treat, and he would sit as close as possible to the person as his body would allow (1 mm apart, at the most). The other was “Stay with the mama”. This was instituted during the days when Haddler and I would say goodbye to the boys at the door, as they left to walk to the bus stop at the top of the street. It entailed his sitting on the 3rd step of the stairs on the front door entrance hall, and I would pet him until we could no longer see the boys – otherwise, he would take off after them and possibly go visiting neighboring streets in search of an open door to go through, regardless of where it led. Even though the last time we had anyone taking a bus to school was somewhere around 2005, to his last day he would dart off in search of the stairs, any stairs, every time anyone said “stay with the mama”, then wait patiently for me to go pet him and release him from his post.

Haddler loved food, just like any dog. There was no problem giving him meds – he even liked his heartworm pills and took them as if they were treats. He occasionally snacked from the kitty litter box, though he KNEW it was wrong; he only did it once he was sure we were all out the door and he was by himself. He especially loved carrots and apples (perhaps he was a horse in a former life, or was training to be one in the next), but his favorite of all times was bread, particularly Portuguese rolls. When he was a little puppy, and alone in the house while everyone went off to work and school, there was no loaf or bag of bread that was safe. We’d come home to find an entire bag of sandwich bread with tell-tale bite marks, plastic and all (well, he was a dog, not like he could untie the little twist thing and get the slices out) on the floor of the boys’ room. Haddler would jump and get the bread from the kitchen counter, so we took to putting it inside a top cabinet, under which he would patiently sit at least 5 times a day, in hopes of a rewarding bread treat.

Whenever he got a bone, Haddler would start what we called his “Bone Parade” – he would run around the house with the bone in his mouth, crying excitedly, showing his treat to everyone who happened to be there, including the person who had actually given him the bone. He went around, and up and down the stairs, until finally he sat to completely disintegrate the poor bone in a matter of minutes… leaving only a much chewed-on piece that he would then think of as a toy, and keep carrying it around for days until I got tired of the dirty thing and threw it out.

catdog2

Haddler was extremely patient with his little brother from another species, our Persian cat Little Kitty (nee Fred, but have you really ever met a cat named Fred? Seriously). LK would try to engage him to play, jumping over him and trying to catch his wagging tail, while the blessed dog just quietly sighed and occasionally looked at the jumping cat. Haddler sighed with emphasis, especially when both boys were away and he would sink into a despairing depression, laying down on the kitchen floor and sighing loudly every 5 minutes. He also, I regret to say (having been on the receiving end of this) farted constantly when he was depressed. These farts, believe you me, could have been used to disperse a rioting mob. And – dumb as he was – he understood the words “he farted!!!”, as it would immediately provoke a frantic tail-wagging, I suppose in efforts to spread the love.

Haddler in his favorite retarded pose-4.10.2011

Haddler’s gentle personality taught my boys to be caring and loving. He was keenly in tune with the family, knowing instinctively who was sad, hurting, or sick. He alternated sleeping with each of the boys (on their beds), unless one of them was sick – he would then devote himself to the sick one until healed. He would give them slobbery kisses, and knew when he could not get close to their wounds or injuries (he nursed the boys back to life from two near-fatal car accidents, three surgeries, and three broken bones/sprains). When the rest of the body was off-limits, he would take off one of their socks and lick their feet. This had two advantages – he was showing love to his buddies, and he got to keep the sock to chew on. Haddler was definitely responsible for the disappearance (or at least destruction) of many a sock in his lifetime.

This sweet dog also taught all of us the meaning of unconditional love, the joy of pleasing others, and to bear pain and hurt without complain. Haddler was diagnosed with hip dysplasia before he was one year old. He lived with constant pain, and we only noticed when it was worse because he limped. He never once complained – that is why that Monday morning a few weeks back, when my boys saw him just sitting up and whimpering softly, we knew something was wrong. He would not lie down. And when brought to the vet, we got the sudden news: A tumor, originated in his spleen, was hemorrhaging into his abdomen. He must have been in excruciating pain; we had to decide then and there.

We hope that our decision to end his pain shows that we learned something from his selflessness. We sat down with him, the four of us, a blanket on the floor at the animal hospital, to say goodbye. Lights were dimmed; he had been sedated and was quietly sitting with us. He put his head on mama’s lap for one last time. The boys and my husband and I petted and told him what a good boy he was. When the time came, the vet sat on the floor with us and gently helped the boys to have him lie down. We continued to pet him and talk to him as he peacefully fell asleep, then his heart stopped.

We hope you have a yard full of snow to play with year-round, as you loved to do with us in the winter. We hope there is a doggie bakery full of Portuguese rolls. We hope you have a big orchard with already-sliced apples, and a huge veggie garden with carrots and peppers. We hope that bones, peanut butter doggie cookies, and old socks are all around you. But above all, we know that you no longer hurt. We let you go, dear friend. You are free.

January storm-Haddler in front-1.22.12

A matter of perspective

A matter of perspective

Disclaimer: I would like everyone to know that I am extremely grateful to the United States, my adoptive country, for giving me the opportunity to adequately provide for my children and to succeed professionally by pure hard work. This doesn’t mean I negate my home country, Dominican Republic. It only means that I appreciate having been accepted and having my work rewarded.

Having said that, Americans (in general, I’m sure YOU are not like that) tend to be a bit, how shall I put it, self-centered. Not individually (though there are some of those as there are everywhere), but collectively, as a nation. I have a suspicion that World Geography is either not taught, or is an elective (doomed to never be “elected” by any hot-blooded child, not that they’re to blame). Consequently, the average American young person (older people excluded here due to their having lived world wars and thus learned about other countries) KNOWS there are other countries besides the US; however, this average young person is not sure what the names of these countries are, or where they reside in the global planet scheme of things. It would seem to me that a world map, in many of these persons’ minds, looks like this:

Please note the vague gray areas which resemble countries, but one cannot ever be sure.

Now, a map of the United States, per these young people, might look like this:

I am sure it is not their fault, but the sum of many misguided hints. Please indulge me as I give you some examples:

1. The World Series – There is nothing worldly about the World Series, played in the US by US teams (and, if lucky, a Canadian team). Wait, I take that back, there IS a worldly thing – the players. There are numerous foreign-born pro-baseball players. In fact, one cannot throw a stick at any of these teams without hitting a Hispanic player, who will most likely be Dominican, and more often than not from San Pedro de Macoris (which happens to be my hometown but that’s not here nor there).

A few years ago, my office mates (a Chilean translator, and an American who had served in the Navy and lived in several countries during his service) and I had the idea to do a little survey. We would ask whoever came in our shared office the following question: “How many countries are there in North America?” Some of the answers:

“This is a trick question, right?”
“One”
“Ha! You thought I’d forget Canada – two”
“Everyone knows that – One, the United States.

NOT ONE PERSON KNEW. Of approximately 15 people surveyed in a global industry environment. It is sad, but I’d like to mention here that, contrary to popular belief, “America” is NOT a country, it is a WHOLE CONTINENT. The US is only one of the countries in America, and not the one with the most original name either. Actually, it is a very vague name, when one considers that the legal name of our neighbors to the South (hint: they are still part of North America) is Mexican United States (DBA Mexico). So technically, Mexico is also a United States of America, but let’s not dwell. So, people from Canada (gasp!), Brazil or Argentina, are in fact Americans. This brings me to the second example:

2. Other Countries – This is where our children get confused. Just the other day (as if the example above were not enough), I witnessed an exchange on a popular social network. The conversation goes so:

  • Person Who Is Travelling For Work: I’m going to Budapest at the end of the month! Does anyone have any suggestions as to what to do, places to see?
  • Person Who Might Have Been There But Maybe Not: Awesome! It’s a beautiful city, you’ll love it!
  • Person Who Actually Knows Budapest (I believe it may have been a Budapest resident): This is great! You should go to [insert place] and eat at [insert restaurant].
  • Clueless Person: Huh? Budapest? Where is that? I don’t know where Budapest is?
  • CluelessER Person: I think it’s a borough in NY. Or maybe a foreign community in Des Moines (OK, I made that one up).

Now, SERIOUSLY?? Clueless Person?? So in these days when knowledge and information are at the tip of your fingers – literally (and believe you me, I use that word with caution), instead of GOOGLING “Budapest” you chose to broadcast to the entire population of the Earth (including baffled and offended Budapest denizens), plus the occasional alien monitoring social media from far out galaxies (for entertainment purposes), your absolute geographical ignorance??? It would have taken less than what it took to write that unhelpful comment. It is not like you had to go fetch a heavy encyclopedia tome, provided you do know where in the alphabet the word Budapest would be. Sigh.

Interactive blog activity: Do YOU know where Budapest is? Suggestions and ideas welcome. Please comment on this blog with your thoughts and I promise I’ll feature the best comment (and its author) in a future blog.

3. The media – OK. I hear your collective groan. Bear with me. Let me preface this section by saying that I am in no way making light of the terrible devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of our country. What I am going to refer to is the media behavior PRIOR to a storm, any storm, any day, any year.

So here goes what you would see/hear at these situations:

–          Anchorperson 1: Let’s go to our weather expert, Justin Windfall, who is on location in South Miami, Florida, to get the latest on Tropical Storm Horace!

–          Weather Person Justin Windfall: [prolonged pause, like Weather Person is actually in Greenland, instead of Florida (though come to think of it, Florida is not technically the US… but that’s another blog)]. Yes, Melanie, this is terrifying! I am here joined by Jesus Hernandez, long-time resident of Miami. We are here at the local Home Depot, where Jesus is buying some boards. Jesus, what are you doing to prepare for the storm?

–          Jesus Hernandez: Well, like you said, I am buying some boards.

Now, I ask you – What did Jesus do with the boards he bought LAST YEAR, for last year’s hurricane? Did he chop them up for firewood? Do you need firewood in South Miami? Really.

So the screen gets back to the studio.

–          Anchorperson 2: As folks prepare for the hurricane-force winds in the next few days, 2 Americans have been evacuated from Haiti by Coast Guard teams volunteering for this dangerous mission.

There is nothing wrong with this, of course. US citizens should be taken care of by the government wherever they are. However, this is being said as the storm is swallowing entire islands whole, while digesting the previous 97 islands she previously ate. But then again.

–          Anchorperson 2: Let’s go to our correspondent Frank Winterberger, in South Dakota. He is there now with Ernie and Mildred Winthrop, who were just rescued from Haiti, where they were researching the history of Voodoo [shot of Mr. and Mrs. Winthrop, wearing Hawaiian shirts – though to my knowledge to this day never has Haiti been confused with Oahu]. “It was a harrowing experience!” – says Mildred. “We didn’t know if we could get out alive!” – says Ernie.

Meanwhile, the entire third of island that Haiti occupies in Santo Domingo is entirely wiped out, not that there was anything there to wipe out anyway. So the fact is Yes! We evacuated 2 Americans! And Crap! 20,000 Haitians died! It’s sort of ironic.

In any case, my point is (I have a point!!) that there are HORRIBLE things happening in other countries, caused by the same threat looming over the US, and there is a certain lack of awareness that there exist other countries, other peoples, and that they are WAY WORSE than Americans are. Do reflect.

Two different worlds + Possible Storm of Century: A look into hurricane preparedness

Two different worlds + Possible Storm of Century: A look into hurricane preparedness

“We’re not trying to hype it,” National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Kocin tells Bloomberg News. “What we’re seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century.”

Hmm. Time to stock up. This, I was surprised to see when I first moved from the Caribbean to the US, is done in an extremely logical and organized way here. Supplies look like this:

Figure 1.
           

On the other hand (would be fair to say, in another world), my fellow islanders (more specifically, Dominicans) would gather essentials such as these:

Figure 2.

         

Irresponsible, you say? Shaking your collective heads, New Englanders? I can explain.

In your average Caribbean island dwelling, the following supplies are ALWAYS available (not only for natural disasters, but as daily life staples):

–          Water – There is not a faucet in the entire country one would trust to drink from. Thus, innumerable containers with water “for drinking and cooking” are handy in every room. As for water for cleaning, bathing, washing – well, that is where Ms. Sandy comes in handy: Every caldero and bucket is sitting outside catching rain water.

–          Batteries, flashlights, gas lamps – Power outages are a fact of life. Not a day goes by that there isn’t one.

–          Food – Non perishable items, such as the plantain tree in the backyard or the freely-roaming chickens are available year-round. Also, there is no money to buy what people don’t already have.

Radios are always around, not to listen to the National Weather Service or Emergency Management authorities (who, come to think of it, may have gathered the exact same supplies shown in Figure 2), but to listen to music or radio soap operas.

Hurricanes are thought of as excuses for being off work and school. The whole vecindario gets together (please refer to dominoes and cards) and alcohol replaces milk. As the storm brings tons of water and strong winds, people (having consumed by the 3rd hour approximately 7 bottles of rum) are grateful for a respite from the heat. A communal sancocho (thick Dominican soup) is underway. The comadres gossip, the compadres drink even more and gamble, and the occasional fight is stopped by the neighborhood abuela (who is usually a small old lady  — don’t be fooled, everyone is scared to death of her, and with reason — who everyone calls “Mama” or just “La Doña”, and who achieves this by separating the fighting parties and smacking each one in the head).

Having grown up in this environment, I find it difficult to get alarmed when there is a hurricane alert. Why, I have survived approximately 37 major storms by now, with a lot less resources and inadequate emergency supplies (please refer again to Figure 2). My husband, on the other hand, looks at me with alarm and barely refrains from shaking me to drive some sort of reason into my carefree island head. Me? I say bring it on, Sandy. I’m ready.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 

I have a question for you talk-show fans out there: Is there, or has there ever been, any talk show host uglier than Conan O’Brien? And please let it be noted, I am including in this assessment the likes of Jay Leno, David Letterman, Oprah, Jerry Springer, and Huckabee. I am not, mind you, including Larry King, on account of his not being an actual human, but in fact a member of the heretofore thought to be extinct Pterodactyl family. This species, you may not know, has mutated to resemble the modern vulture, hence Larry King.

But I digress. Re: Mr. O’Brien – Surely you cannot say he’s pleasing to the eye. That is, unless you are Mrs. O’Brien (his mother, I mean). Now, before you Conan fans (which I’m sure are legion) start bombarding me with irate letters/e-mails/tweets/Facebook statuses/etc…. I am NOT saying that he has no talent. I personally cannot attest to his talent, but I’m confident he has some. What he is for sure not, is FUNNY. He is one of the UNfunniest persons ever to dwell into the show businesses. BUT, I am sure he has his talents, perhaps yodeling, cat grooming, or finger-painting.

I am going to prove to you beyond any doubt, that Mr. O’Brien is a cross between Ed Grimley (Martin Short’s cartoon character in The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley) and Pee Wee Herman. Pray refer to Figure 1:

  +    =  
The Good                                 The Bad                                           The Ugly

Surely there have been accounts of people who deliberately try to look ugly (case in point, Billy Idol in his hey days of MTV videos, with his grotesque facial expressions. And if you do not know who Billy Idol is, please stop reading now, child). But this only works for people who are actually quite beautiful, in manner of Tom Brady or Brooke Shields (who are, in fact, the same person – sometimes with a long hair wig, others with fake makeup to look like facial hair – as evidenced by the following pictures).

Figure 2:

    

I do realize this post has absolutely no point, except possibly to enrage Conanists. However, in these times of despair and ugliness, we sure could use less O’Brien and more Brady/Brooke.