No, No, No, and No

Photo Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

One day, I threw some slightly stale bread into the yard for the birds that love to forage there. Within minutes after I got up the back porch stairs, and into the house, a critter, much like the one in the photo above, its cheeks stuffed with as much of the bread as it could gather, was on my porch scratching at the back storm door.

I rapped gently on the glass, hoping to scare it off, but it wasn’t fazed. It lifted onto its haunches, begging for more.

At that time, our Sheltie-Cocker-Beagle mix was queen of the yard, and went after squirrels with a ferocity that never failed to surprise, as she was affectionate to a fault with all humans. As soon as she caught sight of the critter, though, her predatory instincts went into action, and she started to bark. That ended the squirrel’s greedy campaign.

***

I stopped signing petitions in 2016, after I realized none of them accomplished anything, except providing the host organization with enough data on me to become a pest.

Despite checking all the “No emails” in my email settings, repeatedly, I should add, and unsubscribing to future emails, also repeatedly, the requests for more signatures and donations kept pouring in.

That’s when I marked all of them as Spam, and let my email software do the rest.

This year, conditions being as they are, my husband and I decided to give additional support to our favorite charities and candidates.

That’s when this happened.

Phone: Ring, ring.

Me: Hello?

Male: Hello, is this Barbara?

Me: Who is this?

Male: I’m with ****, and I’m calling because as you know, we need your help more than ever. So, could we count on you for a monthly pledge of $1,000?

Me: I’m sorry, but I gave what I could give. So, no.

Male: But (prepared blather…).

Me: I said, no. I wish I could help, but I can’t.

Male: I hate to be persistent, but…

Me: (Interrupting) This is a difficult time. There’s a pandemic. Everyone is hurting.

Male: I realize that.

Me: Then you should also realize there’s a limit to how much people can give.

Male: (Blather blather blather, gimme gimme gimme, shameless attempts at emotional manipulation…)

Me: (channeling my mother) Listen, honey, I know you need funds. That’s why we gave you as much as we did. But now, rather than showing respect for that generosity, you’re badgering me, and addressing me by my first name when you don’t even know me, an assumption of familiarity I find frankly insulting and offensive.

Male: But…

Me: NO. ENOUGH. All I want to hear from you at this point is, Thank you for your support, Ma’am.

Male: (hesitating, a few seconds, then) Thank you for your support.

Me. Ma’am. Say it.

Male: Ma’am.

Me: Thank you for calling. You have a nice day now.

***

Sometimes, the only way to deal with troublesome critters is to bark at them.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Hodgepodge

Gallery of the Louvre — Samuel Morse

I was looking for a painting, an abstract really, to explain my weeks of absence. None of them were messy enough. Not even Pollock’s. So I started paging through pointillists, and surrealists, and vast scenes of hunts and portraits of serious men at serious undertakings and found my attention straying to the barking dog next door.

Dogs bark for any number of reasons—a pedestrian walks by, a squirrel leaps into a tree, a neighbor’s cat tries to trespass on their turf, or they just want inside. Then they stop barking when the pedestrian is gone, the squirrel bounds out of sight, the cat slinks away, or the door opens for them.

Fortunately, there’s rarely more than one dog barking at a time around here.

For years, I was fascinated by Morse’s Louvre masterpiece, but now it just seems messy, a fascinating irony from someone who devised a method of communicating with dots and dashes, dits and dahs. I think when there’s that much going on it’s hard to focus, know what is most deserving of attention.

So, it’s not that I haven’t had the urge to bark; I just haven’t known what to bark at first. There are simply too many pedestrians, squirrels, cats, and doors.

Woof.

©2019 All Rights Reserved

Anxiety

Our second dog, like our first, was a rescue. This one, a Jack Russell terrier we named, Yoda, had been tossed into a garbage can.

We expected behavioral issues because of the way Yoda been abused, but also prepared ourselves for the fact that Jack Russells, while amazingly cute and intelligent (which she was), are also notoriously self-possessed, tenacious, stubborn, and feisty bundles of energy.

Within a year, Yoda had our heads spinning. We had no idea that Jack Russells have springs in their legs, and looked on in terror and awe as she chased one squirrel up onto the roof of our garage, and another halfway up a century-old oak tree. If it moved, Yoda chased it. And then we chased her.

Though she was devoted and protective, she was not a physically affectionate dog. In her fifteen-plus years with us, she may have licked me twice. She liked to cuddle, but only on her terms. For a while, she tried sleeping with us, but decided we were too restless, and moved down to the living room where she could rest undisturbed.

Even so, as independent as she was, she was prone to destructive fits of anxiety, no doubt the result of her history, which invariably led to her finding some large sheet of paper or envelope we had set aside, and ripping it to shreds in front of us.

More now than ever, I’ve recalled her doing this, because current events have made me antsy, and, in an effort to calm down, I’ve been going through articles, recipes, teaching materials, wisely-abandoned works-in-progress, ideas, and decades-old receipts I haven’t looked at or touched in years, and feeding them into a shredder. As the strips mound and fill basket after basket, I realize I’m breathing easier. Yoda had a point.

Sometimes it’s good to rip things up. Clean out. Unjangle the nerves.

And then have a biscuit.

©2019 All Rights Reserved