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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   nail clipping jihad
Wednesday, February 25 2015
Back when I was a kid growing up in rural Augusta County (five miles south of Staunton, Virginia), we had dogs and cats, but the idea of clipping their nails just never came up. Our dog Wilbur, the Labrador Retriever given to us back in the early 1970s by my aunt Barbara up in Connecticut (where she was something of a small-time dog breeder), got plenty of exercise on rocky ground, so perhaps his nails trimmed themselves. But the cats (and we never had more than two at a time) always had vicious claws and we never did anything about them. The understanding was that they needed those claws to defend themselves against predators and other cats. Furthermore, none of these animals were ever neutered. The thinking was that if we only had males, we wouldn't have to live with the inevitably Malthusian choices our critters would make.
Now, of course, I live in a household containing two dogs and five cats, all of which are neutered, and many of which get plenty of exercise in even rockier terrain than I grew up in. And the bluestone here is harder and grittier than the limestone and dolomite of my childhood. Nevertheless, our critters' nails seem to grow relentlessly. This is particularly true in the winter, when the abrasive materials of the lithosphere are locked away beneath layers of compacted snow. So today Gretchen decided to go on something of a nail-clipping jihad. First she clipped Ramona's nails, and that's never very hard, and then together we cooperated in clipping the nails of all the cats. Sylvia complained the most about it, but for the most part that was fairly easy. Other than as an attempt to mitigate the destruction of furniture, I don't fully understand clipping cats' nails, but Gretchen insists that it's something we need to do, particularly for old cats. The outer layers of their nails don't shed as automatically as they do on younger cats, and they can build up something of a "hoof," a condition we describe as "being hoofy." Today it was Sylvia who proved the hoofiest, though even Clarence had some nascent hoof on him.
The last critter to go unclipped in our nail clipping jihad was Eleanor. Evidently she was horribly traumatized by getting her nails clipped at some point in the year before she moved in with us, and as a result she refuses to let us doing anything to her paws. She's reluctant even to let us touch them. And if she sees us approaching her with nail clippers in one of our hands, she will flee the house and try to hide out in the dog house (which is currently impossible, as it is completely stuffed with pine needles). The other day, Gretchen contacted the vet who occasionally makes house calls to see if she could come by, give Eleanor a twilight anæsthetic (the kind used, for example, before pulling out porcupine quills) and then do her nails. But that vet is a freak about certain things, and began talking about all the ways in which anæsthetics are unpredictable and unsafe, so we dropped the idea. Today, as an experiment, we gave Eleanor 10 milligrams of Valium and then waited for her to become lethargic.
After about an hour, Eleanor looked a bit sleepy, though she was alert every time we approached. Not knowing what else to do, we decided to just go for it. I held Eleanor down and Gretchen snipped her nails as quickly as possible. I don't think this would have been possible at all had we not given Eleanor a Valium, but that doesn't mean it was easy. She struggled and resisted and made horrible unvoiced noises from deep in her throat, "Aghhhkkkh! Aghhhhkkk!" The problem in the past was that even if we held Eleanor down, she hated getting her nails clipped so much that she would bite us reflexively and potentially viciously. Initially, though, perhaps because of the Valium, she didn't do anything other than struggle. But eventually her teeth started snapping against our arms, so we blocked her head with a pillow. Eventually she either wore herself out or resigned herself to her predicament and relaxed, and Gretchen snipped the last of her nails. This was the first time we'd ever had any success with this job. And we'd just saved ourselves $200!
Afterwards, we praised Eleanor lavishly and Gretchen gave her two flax seed crackers piled high with peanut butter. She seemed surprisingly untraumatized and grudge-free. Perhaps this was just the Valium talking. Next time, though, we're giving her 20 milligrams of Valium.

While Gretchen and Ramona were down in the greenhouse enjoying the sun, I drove with Eleanor out to 9W to buy a new car battery and get some groceries. The other day I'd noticed that generic car batteries seemed considerbly cheaper at Home Depot than they are at the various auto parts stores, so I bought one there. And then I hit the 9W Hannaford for all the staples of my diet that Gretchen overlooks: cans of jalapeño peppers, corn chips, bottles mango smoothie, bloody mary mix, and a large diversity of canned beans, among other things.

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