Friday, July 25th11.1°C
Old as dirt. Twice as gritty.

Baby, you're so hot

There shouldn’t be a need to write this particular column, yet for some insane reason there is, because no matter how many times the message is put out there, people are still leaving their babies and dogs in enclosed cars on hot days. The disturbing part is that despite the intense ‘awareness’ campaign going on, incidents like this are on the rise - it’s almost as though awareness of a very bad idea has given some people the idea to try it out. In fact, they appear to be united in an effort to prove to the rest of us just how stupid ‘stupid’ can get. 
“Omigod, did you see that article about the baby who died after being left in a hot car?”
“Yes, it was soooooo awful! Whoa, there’s a sale on, let’s go shopping, lolz. Awwww, look, little Johnny is asleep back there, let’s leave him in the car, we won’t be gone long.”
These people don’t just leave the kid or dog, they make sure the car is locked up tight, presumably to ‘protect’ the child or dog from a potential kidnapper. Their fear is legitimate in one sense, because there is a kidnapper - the heat - waiting by the car, and ready to snatch away the helpless trapped inside. The heat is a far bigger danger than some wildly-imagined bad-ass human. 
And the odd thing is, when babies or dogs die as a result, there are rarely charges. Often, the guilty person, mewling that they ‘didn’t mean to do it’ and is ‘super sorry and sad’, even gains sympathy from the public and media, at which point the crime is cited as a ‘mistake’ that ‘could happen to anybody’.
I get that people feel the pain. We think how we would feel if we made such a horrific ‘mistake’, but should leaving your child to roast like Sunday dinner really be labelled a ‘mistake’? It is a ‘mistake’ akin to the bar patron who makes the ‘mistake’ of driving drunk and ‘accidentally’ flattening a pedestrian. Do these people deserve sympathy or do they deserve jail-time for criminal negligence? 
The question is academic, of course, because the person will get off lightly in this halcyon world of sweet no-accountability. If someone leaves his dog in a closed car for several hours only to find a crispy critter when he gets back to the car, is it his fault? Or just a mistake? By the mantra of no-accountability, it is a mistake. He just has to say, “Sorrrry, oh man, I ain’t gonna do that no more”, forgive himself, then go get another dog. In no-accountability land, the thing you’re not supposed to do is feel guilty - no matter what you’ve done - because that would be ‘counterproductive’. 
What of the parent who simply ‘forgets’ their kid? The media tells us, ‘this could happen to anybody’. Really? How do you forget your kid? No, seriously. You load up the little bugger when you get in the car. You arrive at your destination. You remember your purse or briefcase. But you forget the kid? 
Nobody suggests the obvious, that you get yourself a brain. Instead there are suggestions to help cope with the obvious challenge of remembering what’s in the back seat. For example, there’s the ‘shoe’ method, in which you put one of your shoes in the back seat with the kid so that when you get out of the car, you are ‘reminded’ when your bare foot hits the ground (hopefully on a rusty nail). Now, I’m guessing that the person who can’t even remember they have a kid in the back is probably not going to remember to put a shoe back there at journey’s onset. It’s just a guess, but I’m guessing I’m right.
Instead, you could just take a look-see at your family member decals stuck on your back car window. Are all the people accounted for? Let’s see now; Daddy is at work, the dog died last week when it was left in the hot car . . . oh wait, what about little Johnny. “Where’s little Johnny???? OMG he’s been kidnapped! Oh! Oh! Oh wait, that’s Johnny in the back seat where I put him when I got in the car today.” 
See? Wasn’t that easy? 
However, I have a better way to help the clueless. Let them find out what it is like for a dog or kid to sit in a hot car, waiting in a pool of sweat and misery for someone to come for them. I decided to do a test run. It was about 25 degrees outside, and I sat in the car in the direct sun for 20 minutes with windows closed, engine off (ie no air-conditioning). The first five minutes were okay, after which it grew increasingly uncomfortable. After 10 minutes, I really wanted to open a window or door, it was hard to breathe, hard to focus, sweat was pouring down. What stopped me from copping out was an image of the kids and dogs who don’t get that option to simply open a window or door. After another 10 minutes, though, I had to spring myself out of my self-imposed oven. 
I thought of those trapped kids or dogs helplessly waiting for their trusted protector to come for them. The fear they felt, the dizziness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations, eventual shutting down of internal organs (how does that feel?). I guess by the end, a victim’s thoughts would be too foggy to focus on much, and the pain would be too great, but I can bet you this: Their last thought would be a vague memory of their protector who didn’t come back in time. And as they lay there dying, they’d never get a chance to see how ‘sad’ the fool felt when he or she finally returned to the car and carcass.
I recommend to anybody who leaves their kid or dog in a closed car in summer: Try it yourself for 15 minutes before you let your kid or dog do it. Better yet, go for an hour. Please.


The day I shamed B.C.

I have a confession to make. Several years ago, my daughter and I were on a summer road trip traveling across the Canadian prairies. In Saskatchewan we had to take a detour because of road construction, and we managed - don’t laugh - to get lost. Yes, in Saskatchewan. We were on a secondary (or thirduary) road fast approaching nowhere, so we decided to stop for directions at a farmhouse situated about halfway between nowhere and more nowhere.
It was a pretty farm, all wide-open and flat, a little mirror image of the province itself. Heather and I were in great spirits, because you just know you’re in friendly territory on a remote farm in Saskatchewan. Everybody in Saskatchewan is friendly, it’s a rule, I think, but the farmers must surely be extra-friendly. Dour looking but kindly and good. It’s not like a remote farm in B.C. where the backyard is probably piled high with graves from murdered victims and the farmer looks as though he is ready to add another once he sees you. No, this was friendly Saskatchewan.
As we sat in the car doing a final check of our map, we felt all B.C.-humbled by the vast expanses of flat farmland around us. We thought we might take the time to tell Saskatchewan Farmer about mountains, and the way they can really frame a scene. Saskatchewan Farmer would chuckle at our B.C. charm and wit, and then, being a friendly Saskatchewan farmer, he would probably ply us with homemade pie and coffee, after which he would tell us how to get back to the main road.
So, we got out of the car, breathed in the fresh country air, then headed to the door. And that’s when bad things started to happened.
We were ringing the bell, waiting for Saskatchewan Farmer to open the door to meet two fine representatives of the mighty (and mountainous) province of B.C.. He didn’t answer though, and we were suddenly aware that everything was deadly quiet except for an ominous sound of . . . something.
A movement to our left caught us off-guard. Then a movement to our right. We spun around to find that we were completely surrounded by giant monster killer flying black things from hell. They were everywhere, and apparently they were annoyed about something because they were all buzzy and bouncy. My guess is, they hated people from B.C., or at least the two hapless souls standing at the door. The remote farm in B.C. with the backyard body count started to seem pretty good by comparison.
For a long nanosecond, Heather and I just stood there staring at each other.  
After the nanosecond had passed, we started to make strange squeaky sounds, a kind of ‘eek, eek, EEEEEEEK, eek-eek-eek-eek, ack ack, eek, omg omg omg OMG’ that the black beasts mistakenly took to be a mating call, because suddenly there were about one billion more of the creatures flying around us, being aggressively buzzy and bouncy. Only their unease at our strange antics kept us from being eaten on the spot.
And you know, to this day I have to wonder what Saskatchewan Farmer must have thought as he watched from behind his curtain. One thing is clear, he was far too knowledgeable about B.C. crazies to open his door to us and our billion companions, which only goes to prove that the whole ‘friendly Saskatchewan’ schtick is something of a scam.
Unless he was covering his eyes in horror (possible) or couldn’t see for laughing (probable), he would have seen two women madly leaping around his driveway, flinging themselves about in a sort of frenzied ritualistic dance complete with frantic flailing arms and legs and guttural barely-human sounds that only animals in great pain and people from B.C. beset by giant black flies could possibly make. He would have watched us going step by backward step back toward the car, reaching it at last, clawing desperately at the doors with an fervent energy he had probably never associated with famously laid-back B.C. Our antics once inside the car did not let up, because several of the vicious black devils had flown inside with us. Was Saskatchewan Farmer worried? Frightened? Annoyed?
I have a feeling he was laughing.
We have no way of knowing for sure, though, because he never did come to the door. Maybe he was too beside himself. Two women babbling incoherently and flinging themselves about in a driveway is a scene that would probably slay the dourest of Saskatchewan farmers, but continuing just as crazily inside a rocking car must have pushed him right over. 
Sometimes I wonder, does he still tell people about the day Saskatchewan’s black flies took on two of B.C. innocents and won? Has he stopped laughing yet? Probably not.

Run-on, little sentence, run on

I have recently rediscovered my fondness for the run-on sentence, it is something that I’ve neglected for many years now, years that were, truth be told, in rather dire need of the occasional run-on sentence, a situation forcing me think how very odd that I, personally, have neglected the lowly run-on with such reckless abandon, especially in light of living in a world in which everything is done in very short bursts, be it words or actions or even thoughts, all of which would benefit from the thoughtfulness and consideration contained in a good run-on, although I’m not sure the world is necessarily ready to receive the run-on back into its impatient bosom despite that it could do with a little slowing down, something which is certainly achieved when picking one’s way through an endless and, some might say, tedious, long-winded commentary about nothing much at all, although there is nothing that says the run-on sentence absolutely has to be about nothing much at all, it can, in fact, contain something or even vast quantities of something, whatever the run-on sentence writer wants, really, it is completely open, that is the thing about run-ons, they are open to almost anything, very much open, if you think about it, because you have line after line after line after line (ad nauseam) to say your piece, there’s no period to bring your ponderous thoughts to a sudden and sometimes brutal end, there are no paragraphs to create the modern and supposedly desirable ‘white space’ sought by so many yet achieved only at a high risk of being just a bit too white, a little too short, thereby not allowing for the full flowering of clarity, something the run-on sturdily and relentlessly strives to provide, yes, plenty of clarity, one could say buckets of clarity, or, if not clarity, at least lots of damn words, some of which might be small while others might be quite large, one could even conceivably throw a ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ into a run-on sentence without any obvious downside other than perhaps the struggle by some to pronounce the word, since the run-on, busy running on as it is, does not allow much for pauses to allow a closer focus on any one individual word, which is a shame because by not allowing pauses one could argue that the run-on achieves little more than a meaningless ramble much like the half-thought short-burst except that the run-on is more of a exhausting-to-point-of-death endless meaningless ramble while the other is more of a snippy meaningless ramblette, yet putting this aside just for a moment, the hardest part of the run-on sentence is knowing when or where or even how to bring the wretched thing to an end, as it can too easily run away with itself,  and often does, to the bemusement of many, becoming harder to catch than a clam at high tide, not that a clam needs to be ‘caught’ so much as ‘picked up as it lays there doing nothing whatsoever to save itself’, which is, as you may or may not know, the thing about clams, they might take advantage of high tides to conceal themselves but they are totally clueless about actually escaping, as is the author of the run-on, for how does one stop once one has gone deep into it, one almost needs a gun to shoot a period at the sentence in hopes that it lands squarely right about here.


Fanatic dog owners

The Fanatic Dog Owner, a subspecies of Pet Owner, is a growing branch of pet ownership that is daily reaching new levels of of frenzied emotions, enabled by kinship with fellow Fanatic Dog Owners, and fueled by online social media.
To be clear, I am not referring to the standard and (mostly) reasonable dog owner who simply owns a dog, cares for it, loves it, but remains aware that it is a pet. I am referring to the new breed of dog owner who put their dogs above all else, including humans. They would, for example, save the life of their pet over the life of an unknown child. They would, for example, go homeless rather than surrender their pet. Surprisingly (to me, at any rate), statements such as those are made fairly often, and are cheered as heroic, not pointed out as delusional. 
The Fanatic Dog Owner believes that everybody else is doing it wrong when it comes to feeding, training, walking, dog parks, off-leash, on leash, long leash, short leash, collar, vet procedures, poop retrieval, vaccination protocol, interpreting dog language, traveling, patting, farting, bathing, end-of-life concerns, and anything else pertaining to pet ownership. And worse, whatever way you’re doing it is not only ‘wrong’ it is borderline ‘animal abuse’. 
These are some of the things Fanatic Dog Owners believe to be true:
  • You are doing it wrong.
  • Dogs are better than people.
  • You are doing it wrong.
  • They are willing to go homeless rather than surrender their dog.
  • They would choose to save their dog over a child, if faced with the decision.
  • Nothing is more important than their dog.
  • They will smash a car window to ‘save’ a dog that has been sitting in the shade for five minutes.
  • You are doing it wrong.
  • People should bend to a dog’s needs, not the other way around.
  • A dog shouldn’t be trained to be safe with children. Instead, children should be kept away.
  • A dog isn’t at fault for biting a child, because the child probably deserved it.
  • A human should never be the boss of their dog.
  • People do not ‘own’ dogs, they are ‘pet parents’ (gag)
  • Expert advice should never be questioned. Especially theirs.
  • You are still doing it wrong.
In the not too distant past, and as far back as the man/dog bond goes, dogs were expected to get along with children. They were trained to take it on the cuff. Ideally the children were trained as well, to leave the dog the hell alone sometimes, but either way the dog learned early on that biting a child would be a Very Bad Idea. The dog accepted this, and everybody, including the dog, was happy. That isn’t the way it works now. Now, if a dog bites, it is everybody’s fault except, of course, the dog, who, despite being elevated to Super Perfect Being status by the Fanatic, apparently has no possible way to control the urge to bite.
The Fanatic often pampers and overprotects her pet, errr, I mean her . . . baby? adopted being? minor? charge? dependent? The pets are spoiled, go without adequate exercise, without discipline (a dirty word these days for kids and dogs) and without the chance to just be a goofball dog, safe in a family where it doesn’t have the burden of being boss. And then, when it comes time for the dog to die, many owners adopt the same philosophy that is causing so much grief for old people: Life at all costs. 
And if you want to adopt a dog, prepare for a long ride on the Adoption Merry-Go-Round, although it is really more of a minefield. It’s about breeder vs rescue vs shelter vs pound vs backyard breeder vs pets from out-of-country vs pet-store pets vs classifieds pets vs your neighbour’s pet’s offspring. In the rescue or breeder option alone you have a submenu of the ‘right’ rescue vs the ‘wrong’ rescue and ‘ethical’ breeder vs ‘unethical’ breeder. Regarding the SPCA, you either support it or you don’t, and either way there’s someone to tell you that you’re wrong. You can get lost on the Merry-Go-Round for days, weeks, months, and while stuck in there you will meet many, many, many Fanatic Dog Owners. The last thing you want is to get permanently hooked up to one, which is essentially what happens with many of the adoption agreements.
The Internet feeds the madness (of course it does), and encourages rather than discourages the insane extremes of the Fanatic Dog Owner philosophies. Like parenthood, dog ownership is fast becoming so burdened with evangelical fervor, political correctness, unrealistic restrictions and outlandish expectations that it just isn’t much fun to have a dog anymore. 
The other day, I watched a video called ‘Surrendered’. The objective of the video is to show us that hey, you’d never surrender a child, a spouse, a parent, so how could you ever consider surrendering an animal.
Of course you’d never consider it . . . but hold on, wait a minute. Women do put babies up for adoption because of life circumstances. And spouses? Tossed aside in divorce in something like 50% of marriages. And vulnerable aging parents? Check out the oldies homes. Look at all the lonely people behind those doors - some chose to be there, but you know what? The majority were ‘surrendered’ by offspring too busy with their lives to take care of their old mum and dad. All those surrenders are completely sanctioned by society. Yes, beloved humans can be surrendered, because life circumstances come along and make it happen despite best intentions. In other words, for about the same reason that pets are sometimes surrendered. The difference is, you are ‘just doing what you have to do’ if you surrender a human, but a monster if you surrender a pet.
I don’t think I would have surrendered my Angus for any reason, but nobody can know for sure, and I’m glad it was never an issue. I loved him, and was crazy sad when he died. I wasn’t his pet parent, though. I was his owner, and he was my dog. I hope that soon this current Culture from Hell will fall off a cliff (a steep one) and some semblance of normalcy will return (as it is finally doing with the Culture of Helicopter Parenting). One day, maybe dogs can just be dogs again, and owners can enjoy them without the shrines and associated nonsense.

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About the Author

This bio was written by Jo Slade. As you can see she has written about herself in the third person. What normal person would do that? They just wouldn't. Who knows how many other persons might be involved in this thing, a second person? Another third? I worry about it. I - she - we - can't even keep it straight, this paragraph is a damn mess, there are persons all over the place. Round 'em up and shoot 'em. That's what I'd do, and by golly I think that's what Jo Slade would do as well.

Biographic nutshell: Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she'll just say words instead of writing them, it saves on paper.

This column: The columns that will appear here are of a highly serious and scholarly nature, therefore it is advised that you keep a dictionary and ponderous thoughts nearby.

If, after reading the column, you find yourself tossing and turning at night, burning with the need to email me, just do it. I answer to [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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