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Learning about Love & Loss — from your Labradoodle

27 May

by Roger White

 

Here’s a quote from comedian Louis C.K. I’ve been pondering lately: “It’s true, everything that makes you happy is going to end at some point, and nothing good ends well. It’s like, if you buy a puppy, you’re bringing it home to your family saying, ‘Hey, look, everyone, we’re all gonna cry soon. Look at what I brought home. I brought home us crying in a few years.’ widdul puppyHere we go. Countdown to sorrow with a puppy.”

I’m not sure I completely agree with the “nothing good ends well” bit, but I do understand what Louis is saying about pet ownership. The animals we bring into our lives, the furry little family members we choose to share our homes and our years with, wriggle and wag and romp their way into our hearts—and then they leave us, as they must. Ralph the rotund long-haired dachshund has been a loving and much-loved part of our family going on 13 years now, and though I pray he isn’t leaving us anytime soon, we do see the youthfulness waning from our once-rambunctious puppy, little by little. Especially lately, Ralph’s step isn’t as spry and bouncing as it once was, trips to the vet have become more frequent as aches and pains and digestive upsets pop up more often, and we’re finding more indiscretions around the house—a sure indicator that old dachour usually well-behaved Ralphie can’t hold it and wait for his bathroom breaks like he used to. Basically, it’s a lot like what’s happening to me. In fact, I would guess the old boy is aging a lot better than me, considering in dog years Ralph is going on about 91 now. I’m not yet 60, and my trips to the vet—er, doc—are a heck of a lot more frequent than Ralph’s, for sure.

Another life event our little family is going through presently involves an aging parent. My dear wife’s mom is at that point where we’re having to seriously consider the assisted living option. At 89, Bubbie is still as sharp as ever—smarter and quicker still than I’ll ever be—but physically her life is becoming demanding, challenging, and increasingly more difficult. I can only imagine how hard that step has to be, contemplating giving up one’s independence for the safety of a care facility. But I must say that some of the places we’ve visited in trying to make our determination are actually quite pleasant. Heck, I could live at some of these places right now—good meals, regular card games, pool and hot tub privileges, awesome meds, no daily rush-hour hell. And you can watch TV all you want!

And this got me thinking. Why don’t we have assisted living for pets? You know, an old pooch’s home. It would be complete with miniature pet wheelchairs, senior dog chow in the dining hall, group physical therapy sessions on such things as rudimentary tail-wagging, cat avoidance pup in chairtechniques for the older canine, most effective facial expressions for begging, stuff like that. Ralph would surely dig those Jacuzzi jets on his aging backbone. I may look into starting something along these lines. Call it, oh, the Lazy Days Sunset Retirement Kennel. Or Sam’s Silver Years Senior Shih Tzu Spot. Elroy’s Elderly English Setter Center? I don’t know, I’ll work on it.

Anyway, I believe Louis C.K.is being a bit harsh, now that I think about it. I wouldn’t call owning a pet a “countdown to sorrow” so much as I would term it a valuable lesson for us owners. Caring for and then letting go of a dearly loved pet, to me, is more a lesson in love and loss. Our pets show us the true meaning of selfless love—and, maybe as importantly, they teach us how to cope with loss. What greater lessons are there?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visitoldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

Jet Set Pet Vet Your Best Bet to Get Your Pet All Set

3 Aug

by Roger White

 

You’re in for a treat in this installment, my discombobulated disciples. Today, This Old Spouse talks with Hector Proctor, famed household veterinarian and director of the Austin-based pet advocacy group Domestic Protectors, about some common pet problems and ailments and how to treat them. Regular followers of TOS know that my family cohabitates with rotund Ralph the long-haired weenie dog and moody Dr Hector ProctorMax the psychotic tabby. If your animals are anything like mine, you’ve often contemplated petricide, or at the very least replacing all your furnishings with old cable spools and concrete blocks. Hopefully, some good words of wisdom from the renowned pet vet will shed some light on the darker corners of animal ownership.

 

TOS: Hello, Doctor Proctor.

DocProc: Call me Hector.

 

TOS: Doctor Hector Proctor?

DocProc: Just Hector.

 

TOS: So Doctor Hector, as director of Domestic Protectors, you’ve lectured that—

DocProc: On second thought, Doctor Proctor is more proper.

 

TOS: I don’t want to dicker, Hector.

DocProc: Doctor Proctor.

 

TOS: Doctor Proctor then. So, what factor is better if your Boxer or Setter is a carpet wetter?

DocProc: This may be a shocker, but a Boxer or a Setter is not a Cocker or a Terrier. If you’re stricter on a Cocker, you’ll get caca on your Dockers.

 watulookinat

TOS: Ooh, heck of a specter, Doctor Hector. Tell us this, what’s a greater indicator that your cat’s a dachshund hater?

DocProc: Well, according to Doctor Edgar Lecter, assistant director at Domestic Protectors, a good detector of a dachshund hater is a spate of “hater craters” near your dachshund’s masticator.

 

TOS: Beg pardon?

DocProc: Scratches near his mouth.

 

TOS: Ah. OK, say your Great Dane’s feeling pain in his metacarpal vein. Can you ascertain the main blame for a Dane’s vein pain?

DocProc: Again deferring to Doctor Lecter, who’s a lecturer on corrective vectors at Domestic Protectors, a sore metacarpal connector sector is often a reflector of an infected schlector.

 

TOS: Schlector?

DocProc: Alright, I made that up.

 

TOS: Um. Here’s a question from a Mrs. Harry Nation of College Station. Dally MatianIt seems Mrs. Nation’s Dalmatian suffers salivation elevation during recreation. Any information?

DocProc: Well, salivation is the machination of canine perspiration, so salivation elevation during recreation is no aberration. No need for consternation, Mrs. Nation, unless exacerbation of your Dalmatian’s salivation leads to dehydration. Then perhaps an examination would be indication for medication, sedation, or further investigation.

 

TOS: A salivation revelation!

DocProc: Mere explanation.

 

TOS: Moving along, a Mr. Jubal Roodle of CampCanoodle writes that lately his Standard Poodle, Mr. Doodles, will eat only noodle kugel or Mr. Roodle’s stewed strudel.

DocProc: Poodles are a moody brood. Mr. Roodle, I conclude you’d be shrewd to mix the stewed strudel or noodle kugel in with Mr. Doodles’ Poodle food, then moody Mr. Doodles will chew the whole kit and caboodle. Mr. Roodle should then slowly exclude the stewed strudel and noodle kugel, moving Mr. Doodles to strictly Poodle foodle.

 

TOS: You said foodle.

DocProc: I did? This is brutal.

 

TOS: True dat. Well, before we scat, let’s wrap this claptrap with a cat chat. Doctor Martha McCurgeon, a surgeon from the rural Minerva region, claims her Persian, Bertha, has an odd version of perversion—an aversion to anything but sturgeon.

Persian AversionDocProc: Aha. This is actually a common Persian perversion. In the biz, we call it Persian Sturgeon Diversion. As a surgeon, Doctor McCurgeon should know her Persian’s sturgeon diversion is a minor perversion amenable to conversion to a Persian’s normal food version with minimal coercion. It’s my assertion that with minor exertion, Doctor McCurgeon can effect Bertha the Persian’s reversion to—

 

TOS: Oop, out of time, Doctor Proctor.

DocProc: Thank God. Next time, please connect with Doctor Edgar Lecter.

 

TOS: I’d like to thank Doctor Hector Proctor, director of Domestic Protectors, for—

DocProc: I’m outta here.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Insurance Companies & The Ninth Circle of Hell

11 Jul

by Roger White

A dubious milestone of this haphazard voyage we call aging is the unique privilege of having one’s most private of bodily parts probed, scoped and examined with cold, silvery steel instruments and high-tech cameras that lay bare one’s innermost of innards for the whole world to see. This, and a whole host of other expensive and excruciating invasions, is surely the primary reason old folks have that constant sourpuss get-the-hell-off-my-lawn look about them.

 getoffmylawn

If the seasons of one’s years can be parceled into 20-year increments, then I figure I’m now in the late autumn of my earthly existence, and I’ve recently been invaded in ways I never quite imagined. If you still have the green leaves of youth on your person and haven’t undergone such a procedure, picture one of the “Saw” movies, except with anesthesia and hospital food. And I even pay for the privilege—quite a lot, as a matter of fact. Which brings me to the point: Insurance companies are the instruments of Satan. It is true; strip away the fur of the MetLife Snoopy character or the feathers of the Aflac duck, and you’ll find the gnarled skin, boils and jagged horns of Beelzebub himself.

Oh, insurance people make all the requisite noises of friendly service and compassionate care, as long as you’re shelling out those monthly premiums on time. But try to call on your amiable insurance guy for actual coverage and you’ll witness the meek Smeagol flash to the snarling Gollum faster than you can say what’s my co-pay. Ya see, when I was first invaded a few years ago (see First Battle of Colon), I got the standard percentage of coverage—minus the hefty co-pay, of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcourse. In that First Battle of Colon, the general—I mean doctor—captured a few rebel polyps. I hate and fear that word: polyp. When you hear the word “polyp” in a sentence in reference to your body, you can be sure it isn’t good. The very word sounds rubbery and unpleasant—malevolent, even.

“Did ya hear about Rodge?”

“No, what?”

“Polyps.”

“Oh, my God.”

Anyway, these rebel polyps looked suspicious, so they were executed—and I was ordered to succumb to a second invasion in a few years (see Siege of Polyponesia) to determine if there was another uprising. So just recently, in preparation for the second great invasion, I received a call from the general’s—er, I mean doctor’s—office. The pleasant woman on the line asked how I would be paying for the procedure, and I said the same way I did for the first pleasant outing. She said sorry, but my insurance company pays for this type of invasion only every 10 years. Because of my—ugh, polyps—I have what is known in the insurance world as a preexisting condition. Sorry, Charlie. Yer on yer own. Well, she didn’t say it that way; she asked if I would consider a payment plan. As in paying the Ass Man a couple hundred dollars a month for the rest of my seasons.

Needless to say, I was flummoxed. Gobsmacked. Flabbergasted, even. Let me get this straight, I said to the pleasant woman. My insurance company will chip in its rightful portion for this god-awful event if I’m just doing it on a whim, but if it’s been determined that I really need it, then they won’t pay up. How convenient for them.

 insurance guy

Yes, she said. Welcome to the world of the preexisting condition. Gadzooks, people. Where will this lead? Will the Satan-worshipers insurance people eventually come to the greedy conclusion that everything is a preexisting condition?

Emergency room administrative person: “So how will you pay for surgery on your cracked skull?”

Guy with cracked skull: “I have insurance.”

ER person: “Sorry, we contacted them already. They determined that your clumsiness, which caused you to fall on your head, is a preexisting condition. Do you have any credit cards?”

I’m hunting down that damn duck. Anyone for Aflac à l’orange?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Writer’s Block? No, It’s COS–Creative Obstruction Syndrome

11 Jun

by Roger White

 

When I was a kid, living in what was then a tiny suburban town with a flashing yellow light on the highway and a few close-knit neighborhoods in which summer curfew was the precise moment the street lights came on, I was good friends with the son of the town doctor. Despite the fact that he was the smartest d_burleson[1]kid in town and half the time I couldn’t understand what the devil he was talking about, he was a fun kid. For several preteen summers, we hung around together just about every day. We’d take turns having sleepovers at each other’s houses. David’s house was the nicest in town, and I always had a blast exploring the attic crawlspaces with him. We had a secret room in one of the crawlspaces we called Project Asparagus. The tiny storage space we decorated with shag rugs and posters and a black light. It was our cool, clandestine hideout. We didn’t discover until years later that his mom knew all about Project Asparagus and could hear us every time we crawled around in there. She said we sounded like two overgrown rats.

 

Anyway, David’s dad, Dr. Brown, was a community icon. Back then, you pretty much figured that doctors knew everything. You trusted their judgment. Their diagnoses, their viewpoint on things, carried much weight. Doctors fixed you. There wasn’t anything that doctors didn’t know.

 

I’m not sure if it’s a product of cynical wisdom that comes with maturity or the overwhelming influx of white noise and myriad “expert opinions” of this information age (have a symptom—Google it!), but as the years have gone by my unshakeable faith in the medical profession has eroded somewhat. In fact, if you were to graph my advancing age alongside my trust in MDs, QUAAACKyou’d have two lines angling in opposite directions. A lot of it could be due to the fact that today doctors have an official (and expensive-sounding) medical term for every human condition. And if they don’t actually know what it is that ails you, then they label it some nebulous multi-syllabic syndrome.

 

For example, lately our oldest daughter has been having stomach problems. She often feels queasy and lightheaded after she eats, and she’s even passed out a couple of times. It’s been unsettling, to say the least, so we took her in to a gastroenterologist. He took a quick gander at her, asked her a couple of questions, and pronounced that she was suffering from IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Cut back on the dairy and sugar and see me in a few weeks if it doesn’t get better, he said. Will that be cash or credit? What? That’s it? Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Geez, my bowels get irritable, too—every time I overdo the Tex-Mex and beer. Does that mean I have IBS? In fact, I would imagine everybody has IBS on occasion.

 

Don’t quote me on this, but I seriously think the word “syndrome” is either Greek or Latin for “best guess.” Just as “disorder” is code for “we really don’t know.” Instead of admitting they simply have no idea what the heck is wrong with you, docs assign you a syndrome. If you can’t sleep, you have Restless Leg Syndrome; if you’re tired a lot, you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; if you and your coworkers feel bad at the same time, you have Sick Building Syndrome. If you get mad, you have Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. And, of course, let’s not forget perhaps the most significant medical discovery of the new age: ADD. When I was a kid, if you ran ADDaround a lot, couldn’t pay attention for long stretches, and hollered like a banshee, they called you normal and made you play outside until you were worn out. Nowadays, youngsters who exhibit the very same behavior are proclaimed to be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder and promptly pumped full of prescription drugs strong enough to tranquilize a racehorse.

 

Ouch. I had a lot more to say about this, but my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is flaring up. Meds! Where are my meds?!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.