Punctuation Matters

typewriter Andre Govia

This clever Dear John letter perfectly illustrates why punctuation matters.  Exact same words, only the punctuation has changed from one version to the next.

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Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?

Gloria

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Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Gloria

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Affording Doughnut

Doughnut 1st Day

(This piece was originally posted on my old blog.  I am running it again in honor of Doughnut, who passed away on Monday.  Sleep well, my little clown.)

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Are you financially secure? Is your retirement plan fully funded? Are your children’s orthodontia needs, wedding plans, and college tuitions all paid? Do you have piles of cash just lying around your house, collecting dust? Well my friend, you are exactly the type of person who should adopt an English bulldog.

I am convinced that the English bulldog is the only animal on the planet that makes the platypus seem smartly designed. The bulldog’s whole head is so convoluted and badly put together that the eyes, the teeth, the ear canals, and respiration can only be described as totally jacked up. “Jacked up” is the official medical term used by my veterinarian, who bred English bulldogs until he came to his senses.

Why would breeders make something with so many inherent weaknesses? In a word, adorability. Humans are hardwired to go all squishy when they see something with an oversized, rounded head, big eyes, and a snub nose. I believe this coding was to bond us with human babies even when they were screaming loud enough to rupture your eardrum, but the response is indiscriminate. Show a human something that has a wobbly, balloon-like head with large blinking eyes and we become goo. How else could Hello Kitty, a rudimentary sketch of a cat’s head, have become a mega-bazillion dollar industry?  Adorable sells.  Big time.

English bulldogs have adorability to spare. Even when they’ve matured past puppyhood, they still reduce humans to blubbering baby talk. “He’s mama’s squishy-wishy cutie-patootie, yes he is. Aren’t you, baby? Aren’t you my darling little pudding pop?”

God help me, I am a new bulldog mother and I am completely smitten. Before I adopted Doughnut, I read all the papers on bulldog health problems. I told experienced bulldog owners that I had found an article calling bulldogs a $5,000 check waiting to be written. I thought it was a joke. I laughed. Their response was different. They said, “Really? That figure seems low.” Uh-oh.

I did it anyway. I found a photo on http://www.petfinder.com and fell in love. I saw swinging jowls, mismatched ears, nubbins of teeth pointing in all directions, and a face only a drunk mother could love.* That’s the one for me! Thank God I’m married and not actively dating anymore. If this bulldog thing is any indication, I just can’t be trusted to choose wisely.

I have had Doughnut just two weeks now. His first surgery is booked for this Tuesday, when he’ll have his ear fixed and a massive amount of dental work done. Did you know that teeth can point straight back and up towards one’s ears? Apparently they can, though it doesn’t help one chew.

I am optimistic that Doughnut is hale and hearty in all other areas. He does appear healthy. My vet has thoroughly examined him and uttered the classic, qualifying line, “He seems quite sturdy. . . for a bulldog.”

Take pity on me if you see me on the street corner behind a card table, selling baked goods to raise money for vet bills. It means that I have adopted the canine equivalent of a money pit. But I should have known that. After all, I adopted a bulldog.

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* “. . .a face only a drunk mother could love” was the reaction of my friend, Al P., to Doughnut’s photo. It was a phrase I fell in love with and had to use. Thank you, Al.

Middle Management

Oney Brennan

(This post originally appeared on my old blog in August, 2010.  Surprising everyone, Oney passed away in October, 2010.  It still hurts.)

 

We have a Great Dane named Oney. The name Oney rhymes with pony and was the name of my great-aunt, Oney Lavinnia Davis. My great-aunt Oney never married despite having many suitors. She suffered from seizures and did not want to run the risk of passing that on to children. She loved all children but whenever anyone was pregnant, she always hoped that they would give birth to a robust, ginger boy. Aunt Oney had a real thing for red-headed, freckled boys and I’m certain if given half a chance, she would have kidnapped Opie for her own.

My great-aunt was an industrious woman, gifted with all things involving needles and threads or fabric. She was a wonderful seamstress, fashioning extraordinary formals for my cousin. She was an accomplished lace maker, knitter, and crocheted all my dolls’ wardrobes. She had her daily activity schedule and stuck to it. So does my Great Dane.

My Great Dane Oney is devoted to her routine. From morning to night, she has a plan. Upon rising from bed, she heads directly downstairs to the living room sofa for a post-sleep nap. She believes in starting the day gently and how better to ease into things than with a nap? Then there’s breakfast, eaten with appreciation and grace. After breakfast, the pace quickens and it’s time for her first official pass of the day. This means that she absolutely must go out and inspect the entire property. It’s important for her to establish that during the night we were not invaded by marauders, cutthroats, or groundhogs. Once perimeter security is confirmed, it’s time for the post-inspection nap.

Fully rested, Oney is ready to take on more management duties. She simply can not abide displays of frantic energy of any kind. Screaming toddlers send her straight to bed. Border collies make her flipping insane. If the English mastiff, Joe, and the Basset hound, Clara Jack, start to roughhouse and tussle, it must be stopped. Oney will get in between the two and try to block their contact as they pounce at each other despite her efforts. When that fails, she will put her paw on Clara Jack and push her to the floor. “When in doubt, stand on ‘em” is her leadership mantra.

More important to Oney than crowd control is resource management, or rather the allocation of the rawhide chew bones. We have three dogs, and I always buy four bones because this is not my first rodeo. I’ve learned that when you’re passing out something with the desirability of a large beef rawhide bone, having plenty keeps peace in the pack. Invariably, and for the life of me I can’t explain why, one bone will become “the one.” It, above all other bones, will be the most delicious, the most desirable, and the most sought after bone in the house, maybe even on the whole planet. Now skilled manipulation and strategy become important. Here is where Oney shines.

If Clara Jack has “the one,” there’s not much hope of getting it from her unless one of Clara’s favorite humans comes through a door and she bounds over to them in greeting. Then the bone can be snatched away. That’s a tough scenario to manufacture, so Oney just has to be patient, in position, and wait for opportunity to present itself.

If Joe has “the one,” there’s no waiting involved. Joe sees himself as Head of Security here, and will bark ferociously at the front window at anything that seems askance within a two-mile radius of our property. All are warned. There’s a 200-pound mastiff watching you. All Oney has to do to get the bone is to bark once or twice. Joe will run to the front window to man his security station, barking the whole way. Oney will snatch the dropped bone and run upstairs. After Joe is through securing the house, he’ll return to where the bone was and wonder what the hell just happened. I’ve seen this played out too many times to think it’s a coincidence. It’s sneaky, it’s devious, it’s effective; by God, it’s middle management material.

A variation of this maneuver is when Oney has “the one” and Clara Jack has been patiently watching and waiting for her opportunity to pull a quick grab-and-go. I’ve seen Clara sit there over an hour, observing, inching closer, her desire for the bone practically vibrating off her body. Oney gets tired of the bone but doesn’t want Clara to have it for reasons known only to Oney. Oney will get up, carry the bone right past Clara to a sleeping, oblivious Joe and drop the bone beside his drooling maw, making sure that he wakes up during this process. Joe rouses and thinks that the rawhide fairy has visited and starts to chew the gift. Clara who has devoted over an hour of her time to the pursuit of the bone just stares in disbelief.

Now that Oney has affirmed her superiority, it’s time for the official evening inspection of the property. Deer, foxes, and bear are warned that this is dog country, and not to defile the kingdom by trespassing during the evening hours.

Most of the day’s tasks completed, the pace mellows again. Evening meal is eaten, followed by a sound pre-sleep nap on the sofa. All dogs are officially off-duty now. There is sincere snoring until the word is given that it’s time to crawl up the stairs and officially go to bed. Oney’s last management duty of the day is to allocate sleeping space to all on the bed. We humans have reserved spaces, and the three dogs meld themselves into the remaining nooks and crannies. The Basset overheats easily so she prefers space under the ceiling fan, but Oney and Joe both want their blankets thrown over them and tucked in before the lights go out.

Life as a middle manager rocks!

You Had Me at Hello

Joe Asleep Close Up

Our English mastiff is getting on in years. His muzzle is peppered with white hair, and his hearing is not quite reliable. In Joe’s massive chest still beats the heart of a Samurai warrior, and he takes his role as chief protector of all that is ours extremely seriously.

Be warned all that venture near, Joe is on duty and you are suspect. Even if he has met you a thousand times before, you are merely an unwelcome trespasser until he decides otherwise. Being deemed a friend at present does not convey those rights automatically in the future. Acceptability is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Joe’s suspicions are triggered by certain events, sounds, or even words, that he has decided pose a threat. Since most people who possess the intestinal fortitude to come to our front door start with a tentative “Hello,” this word now triggers a Def Con 5 level response. Unfortunately, he applies this criteria indiscriminately. So when Gruff or I answer the phone — Hello — fierce barking erupts.

Intruder alert, intruder alert, unauthorized person attempting entry. All security personnel to Sector Three. And by security personnel, I mean an indolent bulldog and a deaf, three-legged boxer who is inept but unfailingly enthusiastic. The Basset hound does not participate. The princess hound couldn’t care less if we were invaded by a mariachi band and a horde of ninjas as long as one of them stopped and scratched her tummy.

Joe’s reaction to the word “hello” has gotten so visceral, I’m thinking of changing the way I answer the phone. “Hola” did not fool Joe. Neither did the way my daddy used to answer the phone, “yellow.” “Wazzup?” doesn’t seem quite professional enough, and “Dude!” even less so.   I guess I could use “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” but since I am so rarely aware of the time, this might come out wrong.

We’ve recently suffered an irritating rash of telemarketer calls, so Gruff has devolved his phone greeting to the formal, “Please identify yourself.” My man is so gracious and friendly. Now you know where Joe gets it from.

I know that some of you are wondering why I just don’t break Joe of this habit. Fair question. It is useful to me to have a 200-pound mastiff who feels protective. We are way out in the hills and fending for oneself is a time-honored tradition in these parts. Fending is much easier for a plump, middle-aged, non-athletic, diabetic chick when you have a concerned mastiff by your side.

I’m willing to grant Joe a little leeway in the area of his early warning systems. He has discouraged uninvited people from coming into the house before, and I respect and appreciate that. It doesn’t matter that I might be inconvenienced, or that callers are confused. It’s what Joe needs.

Bonjour, y’all!