The view from Dogueville

I love dogs.  I have always managed to be accompanied by a furball or two at different stages of my life.  As far as I am concerned life just doesn’t feel complete without a dog in tow.

They have all had different personalities with innumerable peculiarities and I have loved them all equally.  I have mourned their losses terribly and gone out and fallen in love again with another precious bundle of unconditional love – which is probably the point really.  Unconditional love is priceless.  You can put up with almost any doggy personality when unconditional love is on offer all day every day.  I am probably prepared to put up with more doggy quirks than I would tolerate in any human being – related or otherwise –  or so my loving and long-suffering husband has told me on more than one occasion.  In his defence I do have more photos on my iPhone of my dogs than I do of him.

My latest furry personalities are two Bichons named Ruby and Angus.  From the same litter, they have been together all of their eight years but are as different as chalk and cheese.

Angus likes to think he is a little bigger than he actually is and has often suffered the consequences of his short-dog shortcomings when confronted by larger and sometimes lucky for him, slightly more tolerant counterparts.  At best he has gotten off lightly as he is sniffed and swatted out of the way.  At worst he cost me well over $500 in vet bills for stitches and antibiotics when he got out of the yard and decided that a large bull-terrier cross tyrannosaurus rex was fair game.  Lucky for him his short legs got him as far as our front gate and under my legs before he became a snappy happy meal.

Still, that hasn’t stopped him from constantly testing the limits of our four-foot front gate as he blazes a trail from left to right and back again when supposed interlopers get too close to his patch.  I wonder where he gets it from as his sister, Ruby, is placid and gets tired just watching him.  The only time I have seen her blaze any kind of trail is at the mention of food and the sound of a packet of crisps opening in another part of the house.

Ruby wrote the book on not sweating the small stuff.  I find myself watching her at times just to make sure her chest is still moving.  She knows she is on a good thing in Dogueville and she isn’t going anywhere at any great speed anytime in the foreseeable future.  Nothing phases her.  She can sleep through gale-force winds, a sonic boom and a near-miss lightning strike recently that sent Angus and myself scurrying under the nearest bed together.  Braveheart, as he was so named thereafter, wouldn’t come out for hours while Ruby sat by the fridge in hopes of getting his share of the dinner that night.

For all their antics and foibles, I love them dearly and will continue to love them even when they are no longer with me.  My dogs are not only my companions, they are my friends.  They offer me love and make me laugh.  They make me cry when they are gone.  I wouldn’t change one moment of it.

 

Abnormalities

It’s common knowledge around these parts that my family is full of eccentric-type nutters, myself included.  Not that it’s a bad thing but it has its moments.  In a world where mental illness and mental stress are now the norm – some members of my family can give those categories a run for their money, be somewhat challenging or at the very least, downright entertaining.  I’ve managed to keep a lid on most of mine over the years but I suspect that if I had ever done drugs or alcohol I would be spending a bit of time in the local mental health unit by now.

My father is no exception.  I wouldn’t call him crazy but he is definitely out there.  I suspect he has undiagnosed adult ADHD from my stints working with psychiatrists and my discussions with them about him over the years.  He has managed to navigate through his life in blissful ignorance in times of stress with a somewhat childlike attitude to problems and an attention span of a mudskipper.  Mum undoubtedly has shouldered most of the day-to-day burdens, bills and disasters and would probably only now just be getting out of prison for murder if they hadn’t separated twenty years ago.

I get along pretty well with Dad although it can be hard work keeping up with a conversation with him as he flits from one subject to another, talks loudly at lightspeed, looks blankly at me when I ask him a question, says “eh?” and then answers it.

Shopping is fun with Dad albeit a little scary because I never know what he is going to do next.  I have lost him in department stores because he has wandered off or stopped to have a detailed conversation about almost anything he can think of with somebody he doesn’t know.  Going to the cinema is a real challenge as I can’t hear the dialogue over my father’s constant queries about what is going on.

I often take him with me when I go to buy something because he gets bored and has nothing better to do but I try to refrain from taking him into electronic stores because he is likely to come out with something that he didn’t want and knew nothing about but just had to have because it was shiny and had a lot of buttons he could press.  I took him with me once when I went furniture shopping and he managed to smash a three hundred dollar lamp because he was so excited looking around at all the fancy items he wanted to buy he didn’t see the two-feet-tall designer lamp sitting on a side table near his gesticulating right arm.  The manager insisted, however, that we didn’t have to pay for it after I purchased a very expensive guilt-driven dining suite and my father purchased a plush leather recliner that he said he was going to buy anyway.

They certainly broke the mold when they made my father – and for all his oddities and foibles growing up with him was never dull.  He often took me on his adventures and I always returned home not always unscathed but still alive.  He added to my childhood ideals and experiences.  To me being different, odd or eccentric is just another facet of being human.  Thanks to my father and my family I don’t really believe that there is an ideal to live up to.  Human beings are made to be faulty – it’s just the way it is.  We break, cope or strengthen in different ways depending on our map of the world.

I’m not even sure that there is such a thing as being ‘normal’ or whether it is just a media-generated phenomena that the disillusioned and brainwashed feel the need to aspire to. Thank God for weird dads.

The laptop shop from Hell

I was recently in the market for a laptop as my last one’s hard drive got fried in a power surge when one of the bright sparks down the road decided to do some renovations and hit a power line.  Needless to say I armed all my power points with surge protectors shortly thereafter.

Buying a laptop is tedious yet serious business.  There are so many to choose from.  I know a little about computers in regards to size, speed and capacity so I wanted a laptop with enough RAM and hard drive to last for a while with at least an i3 Intel processor.  I decided to give a local large stationery company – who shall remain nameless – a go as they had a few desktops and laptops in stock.

After much haggling and looking at specs I decided on one particular laptop.  The salesman returned from the storeroom and told me that this particular model wasn’t available but they had another one and he could do it for a similar price.  I was satisfied with this and took the product home.

On getting it home and unwrapping the product I discovered that the product was broken.  Not just broken – the screen was smashed on one side, one of the lugs that holds the screen in place at the back was missing and some of the keys appeared to be glued back into place on the keyboard.  I was flabbergasted.  The product had obviously been put in the box broken as there was nothing wrong with the box.  I rang the company and unbelievably they tried to blame me for damaging the product.  After a heated discussion with the manager they told me to bring the product in and they would ‘have a look at it’ – and concluded that the serial number on the product did not match the serial number on the box and that somebody had swapped the product out.  Really?  The manager then had the cheek to ask me if I had a similar product at home.  By this time I was seeing white spots before my eyes and was about to burst a blood vessel.  I told the manager if I had have bought the product for nefarious purposes in the first place I would have made damn sure I got the product I asked for and not accepted a different product that was offered to me because the original product wasn’t available.  He eventually conceded that he may have some less-than-honest employees in the storeroom and offered me another laptop.

At this point I probably should have learnt my lesson, got a refund and walked away but I got a second laptop and took it home.  All was going well – until I tried to start it up.  It would get to a certain point in the setup process and then spit the dummy and go to a blank screen.  I tried this a number of times and got the same dummy-spitting effect.  I concluded that there was a software problem and once again rang the store.  This time I got the manager-bitch-from-Hell employee of the year who told me that I could bring it back but I wouldn’t be getting a refund and they would be sending the laptop off to get it fixed.  Get it fixed?  WTF?  It was broken before I even opened the box.  My shitometer hit unprecedented heights and I let her have it.  I told her I wanted to speak to a nicer, more customer-friendly manager or they would be speaking to my solicitor.  I was not a thief nor was I dishonest.  All I wanted was a laptop that worked efficiently and they obviously couldn’t supply me with one.  Twice.

In the end they gave me a full refund.  I took my mother with me for backup that day because she is the veteran of winning arguments around these parts and was angling for a fight.  It was all a bit of an anticlimax as the bitch from Hell was nowhere to be seen and I spotted the salesman I dealt with disappearing hastily out the back as I walked in the front door.  I spoke to a nice saleswoman who apologised and gave me my money back.  I went to another store and purchased another laptop and have never had a problem with it.

Lesson learned.  Open the darn box before leaving the store.

Arachnophobia

I don’t like spiders.  They scare me shitless.  I can’t even look at one in a magazine or on my computer.  I have to quickly turn the page or scroll past at light speed.  I’m not sure why as I know they can’t move off of the media and jump out and bite my ass.  Tell that to my ass though.

I’ve had my share of spider horror stories although I haven’t been bitten.  No doubt I have come close as I’ve wandered around in the garden or bushland at times but what I don’t know won’t hurt me.  It’s the in-your-face stuff that makes my hair stand on end and my brain melt into my spinal cord.

My first experience was the result of a good deed gone wrong and probably why I never offered to vacuum my adolescent room ever again.  My mother housed the crusty old cleaner in a box, in a cupboard and out of the light – an obvious favourite haunt of the eight-legged horror which I felt rather than saw as I put my bare foot on an enormous huntsman that continued to wriggle its way to freedom from under my foot and between my toes.  I doubt very much my feet hit the floor for the rest of the evening and I spent the night at my friend’s house.  I tend to wear foot covering everywhere these days except in the shower.

I managed to avoid any chance encounters until a night on the town with my future husband turned into a nightmare as I walked through a group of trees near our destination and straight into the biggest spider web I never saw.  I’m sure I looked a picture of grace and dignity as I danced around like a lunatic trying to get the sticky stuff off me but when my date walked up to me and flicked a huge spider off my head and onto the ground I lost it completely.  He still talks about my screaming sprint past the jazz club windows while the patrons cheered me on.

Not long after that my son and I were downstairs sweeping the entrance when we spotted another large huntsman near the roof.  Commonsense and past experience prevailed and I left it alone but not my son – he decided to poke it with his broom which knocked it onto the floor and straight up his shorts.  I am ashamed to say that I laughed so hard I cried – until the wretched thing ran down his prancing legs and straight up mine.

My last and most recent experience with a spider once again involved my son.  We were putting out the garbage and spotted the largest red back spider we’d ever seen in a web at eye-level on the carport.  We both got close enough to look at the red stripe running down its back when it moved towards us and the sensor light went out at the same time.  We both nearly knocked each other out in the dark as we bravely scrambled to get away from it.  Needless to say we both lived to tell the tale and the spider was dispatched with haste.

I see a few huntsman spiders here and there now and again but I leave them alone.  I figure if I don’t bother them then they won’t bother me but if I find one in the shower with me then all bets are off.

Tattoo me

I’m a tattoo lover.  I’ve had tattoos for quite a while and most of them have been placed in covert places to avoid the scrutiny of stuffy co-workers and management lest they have a conniption.

In the last few years, however, I have come out of the tattoo closet in a big way and decided that it is okay to display tasteful body art in places that can actually be seen all of the time by every freaking person on the planet.  I have decided that I really don’t need to please anybody but myself and can be an eccentric nonconformist if I want to be regardless of that woman in the corner store’s worry that I’m going to steal something from her shelves.

I now sport an expression of creativity and of love for my pets, past and present, intertwined with roses down my right arm.  Some people like them but others behave as if I am going to rob them at gun point.  This isn’t a real problem for me as it sorts out the cheese from the crackers as far as I’m concerned and I am left with those who actually like me for what I am regardless of a bit of extra colour on my skin.

My mother came around eventually.  She is stuck with me regardless and she knows it.  The same goes for my husband.

One day when I am old I might regret having had them done but I doubt it.  When my memory fades a little all I will have to do is look at my beautiful body art and be reminded of my life and the happiness those furry little souls gave me when they were around and I will almost certainly smile.

Beginning Again

It’s been a while since I posted but lately I have found that I have more time on my hands and more motivation to put my ‘creative writing’ skills to use once again.

I am having somewhat of a sabbatical from work at present – or rather a prolonged ‘holiday’ suggested by my husband after my work-from-home job as a medical transcriptionist became less than desirable and started to create moderate-to-high stress levels in our household.  Five years as a medical transcriptionist was enough for me, particularly as our company transferred to foreign ownership and I found that after a long-term projection I would wind up doing the same amount of work for less money – but with the same amount, if not more, stress from line count quotas, English second-language dictators and other transcriptionists with a propensity to cherry pick the best dictators given half a chance.  My recent difficulties in a Singapore hospital and the resulting anxiety and insomnia from my health issues sealed the deal and I sailed off into a semi-retirement sunset and slept soundly for the first few weeks afterwards.

Over the last two and a half years while I have been working I have also been dabbling in photography and what started out as a sideline interest has now blown out into a full-blown obsession with all things pertaining to Canon cameras, lenses, shutter speeds, apertures and ISO.  I am devouring camera magazines, doing online study courses and joining photography groups locally and online.  I am offering my services to all and sundry in an effort to gain more experience working with light and attempting to direct my models like a true professional.

Of course now that I am no longer chained to the computer for prolonged periods of time I am taking obsessive to even greater levels with softboxes, speedlights, strobes, a gathering of an assortment of toys, blankets and fluffy objects for future anticipated shoots of babies, puppies and anything in between.

My husband, as usual, keeps his distance most of the time from my hobby and rarely bats an eyelid over my purchases or my must-have items.  His motto in life of having a happy wife is to have a happy life might be short lived if he ever got wind of my pro Canon 5D Mark III I bought for a ‘good price’ last year, however.

In the meantime, I am slowly becoming what is known as the uncle Arthur in my husband’s family.  I get invited to all the best parties and functions and my popularity is soaring in my small social set.

I am slowly finding myself again.  My grandfather, the only other member of my family to ever pick up a camera and do something worthwhile, would be very pleased.

The Black Dog

I watched a program on television recently that dealt with the issue of suicide and mental illness and how prevalent it is amongst our younger generation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Suicide and mental illness are not limited to the younger generation but it is especially heartbreaking to lose a young and troubled soul without feeling sorrow for a life not well-lived and the unimaginable anguish of the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and school friends left behind.

Suicide has touched us all to some degree, whether it be somebody we know, somebody close, a friend of a friend or even our own morbid thoughts at times when things have been at their darkest in our lives.  I have not escaped unscathed with my various health difficulties without wondering at times whether it is worth the effort of struggling with the pain and functional difficulties that I have been left with.  I keep on top of it.  I keep busy.  I work and study and develop interests to keep the black dog at bay but others may not have the support that I have had or indeed the will to keep on dog paddling when they would rather sink to the bottom of the abyss.

The reality of the abyss was brought home to me again last year when my son’s best friend decided that he simply did not want to keep on paddling for another minute more.  He left behind a beautiful family, many friends and a community of people who he had helped in his short life wondering what had happened.  He didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  He went to church and believed in God.  He was kind, generous and loved.  He was planning a trip overseas and had booked the tickets.  He did not appear to fit the profile of a depressed and mentally ill young person and he simply slipped through the cracks.  He had sought help a few months before his death and unfortunately was not followed up.

The abyss will always be there.  It does not discriminate.  It can affect anybody.  There is no clear answer but it is clear that we need to become more aware of our fellow man and be a little more compassionate.  ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.