bad old ways
Sunday, April 24 2011
Gradually today turned warm, with temperatures reaching into the uppers 60s (Fahrenheit, of course). Gretchen too the dogs for a good walk and I thought maybe Eleanor would be too tired to chase the cyclists when they inevitably appeared, but I was wrong. She may be approaching nine years of age, but something has switched in her otherwise unaddled head and she's resumed the nasty habit of chasing cyclists. I was in the brownhouse taking care of business when I heard her barking, so I dropped everything (literally) and ran up to the driveway to tell her no. It was too late, she was already at the cyclists, and I could see her lunging at them as if they were some wild non-human animal, appropriate targets for what remains of her predatory instincts. I got to Eleanor fairly quickly and close enough to the "attack" (such that it was) to shame her about it. I grabbed her by the collar and dragged her away. She quickly lost interest in the cyclists and seemed to be showing remorse. I could hear one of the cyclists telling a companion that Eleanor had tried to bite her. The cyclist also said something in my direction that included the word "asshole." I couldn't really complain; my dog had clearly misbehaved.
I immediately began setting up an invisible fence. This involved tracking down the bits and pieces of the old invisible fence I'd set up years ago (when I'd tried — and generally succeeded — at solving this behavioral problem the first time Eleanor had manifested it). I eventually found the shocker collar, but not its weird nonstandard six volt battery and not its battery lid.
As I was looking for these things, I witnessed some odd behavior from the local wildlife. A pair of ravens in the pines across the road were making a big commotion, and I saw Clarence walking around at the foot of those same trees. There was also an agitated adult squirrel cussing and flicking his tail. I couldn't tell if the squirrel was mad at the ravens or Clarence, or whether the ravens were also mad at Clarence. For his part, Clarence didn't seem to be mad at anybody, though he did seemed to be curious about something. At about that time I saw some sort of smallish animal run across the road, pursued casually by Clarence. So I ran over to see what was going on.
Clarence was delighted to see me, though the raven had vanished. As for the small creature, Clarence seemed to have lost it. At that point I almost stepped on it. It was a half-grown baby squirrel of the sort I rescued last year. Somehow it had gotten separated from its parents (probably the angry squirrel I'd seen flicking its tail). Not wanting Clarence to get it, I picked up the baby and put it in a woodpecker hole in a nearby tree (for some reason baby squirrels do not bite or otherwise attempt to defend themselves). I figured that when it felt safe it would call out to its parents in the piercing scream that baby squirrels use, a reunion would ensue, and all would be well.
Lisa (once known as "Molly Zero"), one of the more well-known of the online journal keepers from back in the late 1990s (the golden age of online journals) contacted me a few weeks ago saying she'd be coming to the area and would like to meet me in person. So I said sure, and today ended up being the day. While I was still cognitively preoccupied with the latest Eleanor crisis, she arrived at around 1:00pm in her avocado Prius. I introduced her to Gretchen and the critters and then gave a tour of the house and the various outbuildings. Originally Gretchen had been trying to keep out of our way, as if we had old times to catch up on or something, but it's been years since Lisa kept a journal and we don't really know each other beyond that old online journal subculture. In any case it seemed Lisa and Gretchen have a lot in common. We invited Gretchen to come with us for lunch at the Kingston Indian restaurant, and, with a little convincing, she cheerfully agreed.
The reason Lisa was in the area was for some rest and relaxation at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck. She's been working on her PhD in the field of epidemiology (as I understand it). She's also married and she and her husband are working at restoring an old house near Boston, Mass. Like Gretchen and me, they're vegan (or at least she is), have a variety of domesticate carnivores, and have no intention of reproducing.
Gretchen and I are so outside of the mainstream that we couldn't tell at first why Kingston was so deserted. Lisa had to remind us that it was Easter Sunday. Amazingly, our Indian restaurant was closed, something it almost never is. Trying to find a substitute, we went to the Uptown Japanese restaurant, but it was also closed. So we took advantage of Lisa's smart phone to look up the Stone Ridge Japanese restaurant and found it closed as well. The only open restaurant in all of Ulster Country seemed to be the Garden Café in Woodstock. That was great for Gretchen, but I usually go there somewhat reluctantly.
The Garden was packed, and, since it was raining, there wasn't outdoor seating. We found ourselves sitting at the bar when a friendly, bright red gentleman came in and ordered some soup and an early afternoon India Pale Ale. You could tell from his demeanor that this was not his first drink of the day. "The food here is good," he assured us, as if we were unfamiliar with the place. In support of this statement he offered only, "it never makes me sick."
Eventually we had a table and Gretchen finished talking with whoever it was trying to get her to help organize another literary event. I'm not a big fan of the Garden's solid dishes, which tend to be too oily or weirdly flavored. But I always love their soups. Disappointed that they'd run out of navy bean soup, I couldn't bring myself to order the beet and orange soup. But then it turned out that there was also a split pea soup the news of which had yet to reach the waitstaff. I ordered that and Indian vegetable enchiladas (which always sound better in theory than they turn out in practice). What would be awesome would be if the Garden had a number of pasta dishes. But I guess they're pasta is just a little too non-foodie for what they're trying to do.
I don't know what Lisa and I would have talked about had Gretchen not come to lunch, but it probably wouldn't have had so much vegan content in it. There was even some discussion of the recent scandal wherein the vegan magazine VegNews published doctored stock photos of non-vegan food while giving the impression that the food was actually vegan. (Lisa was clearly more disturbed by this story than Gretchen had been.) There was also a little conversation about the old online journal scene and what it had been like to meet readers back when Lisa was still keeping an online journal.
Back at the house, we found a handwritten not stuck on our front door from the cyclist that Eleanor had attacked this morning. The note supplied a phone number and wanted us to provide proof that Eleanor was up to date on all her shots. This was the sort of outcome we'd been dreading.
Lisa headed off to her internet-free week of rest and relaxation and Gretchen called the number on the note. (At first she'd acted as though there was some question about which of us should call, though, given her people skills relative to mine, this was absurd.) The note-poster (whose name was Zoë) claimed that Eleanor had actually bitten at her leg and had left a mark, but had not broken the skin. Gretchen proceeded to work her magic, effusively apologizing and saying she had no idea why Eleanor had resumed her old bike chasing ways, but that we would do what we could to keep her from attacking other cyclists in the future. By the end of the call, Zoë was apologizing to Gretchen.
Later I drove into town to get some supplies for the invisible fence, buying an entirely new invisible fence kit because I didn't think I would be able to make the old shocker collar work with the pieces I had (in testing it also seemed to have terrible range). Despite it being Easter Sunday, Home Depot was open. But it closed at 6:00pm, only about ten minutes after I arrived. But back at the house, I found I could make either system work. Siting the actual fence transmitter above the greenhouse door, I ran the "fence" transmitter wire up to the driveway and along both sides of it. This would make it so Eleanor would be zapped multiple times on her way to the road if she decided to run after a cyclist. The range of the fence (in terms of how close to the wire the collar had to be to produce a shock) proved much greater when I had hundreds of feet of wire strung out than it had been when I'd had a wire loop of just a dozen or so inches. As with all wireless radio technologies, invisible fences are full of surprises.
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