Day by day in Jefferson


Of dogs and people

I’m most likely a sociopath. No, this isn’t the same as a psychopath or a schizophrenic. A sociopath lacks empathy and in some cases, the capacity for true emotions. Hard core members of this diagnosis group are often ruthless leaders, both publicly and privately. These folks are able to use their lack of feeling as a tool in their arsenal when climbing the social, political or corporate ladder. They aren’t necessarily mean or evil, but the missing parts of their psyche allow them to step on the fingers of those climbing behind and below and then take a nap or grab a sandwich. It isn’t that they necessarily know they are sociopathic nor that what they are doing is less than socially responsible. Most people are not that self aware. They simply act as they have always acted and if they consider it at all, most likely it’s in the vein of feeling sorry (or more likely, disdain) for those who aren’t as good as they.
I think I’m more of a middle-of-the-road sociopath: I feel pain and love (at least I think I do) and even some empathy. I felt the loss, though at a distance, when my father passed. I felt something when friends have ended their battles. Truly though, not strongly and not for long.
Over the past two years, we’ve lost our three dogs. I had a 14 year old mini dachshund and my other half, a 15 year old boxer-mix and a 10 year old staff-mix.
First, the staff developed heartworm, after which followed a long and trying recovery. Shortly after that, she began behaving strangely and in the end, it was determined that she was suffering from a brain tumor. Following her passing, first the boxer (after a long decline) and then our doxie both passed. I was moved by the way the staff died: it was sudden and harsh and she was young. I also knew how much she meant to my girlfriend and I felt her loss. I was present when they ended her suffering and I did cry. No matter how it sounds, I was not affected when either of the other dogs passed. Some of that was that both were suffering (and had been for a long time) and honestly, both had been very trying at the end.
I know that just the manner in which I describe that sequence would anger or horrify some. I understand that and it’s why I believe that my self diagnosis is correct. The staff and I spent eight years together and most of the last six months of her life in direct proximity to each other. I took care of her, day and night through her recovery from heartworm. Yet I really didn’t have feelings for her.
In the thirty years since I was a boy, I’ve had many dogs. I’ve lost many dogs. In all the cases, I was largely unaffected.
When I was a kid, about five, our family got a lab-mix. She was with us until I was twelve, when she passed from cancer. The night before she went in to the vet, I jumped out of bed and landed on her foot. She yiped and limped the rest of the night. My mom took her to the vet the next day, never really saying what was wrong. She was gone five days before our parents let us know she wasn’t coming home.
It hurt so bad that I told myself I would never allow myself to get that close again. I pushed the hurt down and buried any thoughts about her. I’ve used that technique every time I have been faced with a loss since then. The less you think about something, the less it can hurt you.
After the loss of all our dogs, I told my girlfriend about my decades long desire to own a puli. I did some research and found one of the few US breeders and contacted them. I mentioned to the breeder that while I’d like a puppy, I’d actually prefer an older dog. Hopefully housebroken and obedience trained. She responded with the fact that she had a two year old female that hadn’t worked out as an ability candidate and she was looking to place her. After a few more back and forth about pedigrees and health testing, I said yes.
I have a tendency to get excited about a project and then lose interest after a while and my girlfriend was concerned that this would be one of those projects. She made me promise that I would never leave her outside and that she would be a part of our lives. I promised.
Polly was shipped to us from Michigan and we drove to Reno to collect her. I had seen a pair of pulik many years before and except for a few websites and TV shows (where puli were featured as unique rare dogs), I really didn’t know what to expect.
We went in the terminal and the first thing I could smell, from dozens of feet away, was Polly. (That would turn out to be due to getting wet and not being dried properly. Polly would NEVER soil herself, even after 15 hours in a dog crate.) After collecting her and getting out of the airport, we decided we would get her out for a quick potty break. She immediately slipped her lead.
For 90 minutes we chased her through high speed streets, with traffic blazing by, honking. Through parking lots. Through industrial areas. All in the dark and chasing a terrified, black dog. How it ended is still bizarre. My girlfriend had been circling the area – we lost sight of each other two minutes into the ordeal – and somehow she saw me. She pulled into the lot and pulled out the crate. Polly, despite having only been in the car five minutes before the chase begun, recognized it and ran there and into her waiting crate.
From there things got worse. She was beyond terrified of us. She jumped over kitchen counters to escape. I put a leash on her and for the first week, that was our only means of capturing her. I told my girlfriend she had to go back. I couldn’t imagine ten years like this. My girlfriend, who really hadn’t been all that enthusiastic about getting her in the first place, now said, no way. You promised to work with her and there’s no way we are sending her back to the situation that produced such a terrified dog. I knew I had to keep my promise, so I said that if it took me a year, I would work with her.
That night I grabbed the leash and made her lie on my tummy while we watched TV. She hyperventilated and her heart beat a million times a minute but she stayed there. I took her out to do her business every day, many times a day. I kept her on me while we watched TV every night. And slowly, oh so slowly, she calmed down. I took off the leash. She started coming when called. She laid on the floor next to me and I pet her or just let my hand rest on her. She decided to sleep with us at the foot of our bed.
She worked her way into my heart and for the first time, I let her.
Over the months, I told her every day that I loved her and I would protect her. I did love her. She looked at me and I knew she loved me. We walked together virtually every day. We spent almost every waking hour together. If I left the room for a glass of water, she followed, nose in the back of my knee. When I took a shower, she relaxed on my bed and waited. She rode in the back seat of my truck everywhere. Everyone in town knew Polly. She slept on my bed every night.
In about the sixth month we had her, we went to the National Puli Specialty. We met many we had talked to on Facebook. We met a breeder with a litter of puppies. Our goal was to get a boy for my girlfriend and this breeder had some boys. Once she knew that my girl was intact and who the breeder was, she refused to sell us a pup until Polly was spayed.
Over the next six months, I went back and forth about the procedure. For whatever reason, I was scared. I made appointments and broke them. Resolved myself to it and made appointments again. I looked for excuses to cancel and I did.
On April 18th, I took her for a walk, hoping for loose stools or hard stools or bad gas.
I took her in and told the tech how worried I was. She said that things happened but not often. I left my best friend and the only thing that truly loved me. My last view of her was watching her leave the room, tail held high.
An hour later the phone rang. I could see it was the vet. I figured she had some blood work that showed something. I heard the voice and it was the doctor. My blood actually became so loud in my head that all I heard was “cardiac arrest” before I dropped the phone. My best friend was gone.

There’s more. There’s the horror scene of me at the vet. My Polly Pocket laying there, looking like she was sleeping. But there’s no more to be gained by me writing it or remembering the pain. I lost the only one who loved me. She lost her life. I don’t, can’t, understand.

We have a new puppy coming. Vadrozsa Pyper at the Gates of Dawn. Pyper. I will be with her every day, just like Polly. She won’t be Polly, of course. With Polly, every little thing, every bit of trust earned, every time she ran back to me, was a victory, celebrated. Pyper will be a tiny puppy. The love will be there. I just don’t know how I will feel.
Can I let myself feel for this youngster what I allowed with Polly? Can I be vulnerable?
I don’t know.

What I do know is that I miss my Polly every day, every night. I will look down at the foot of the bed and see Pyper and try not to see Polly. I will love her.

Even sociopaths feel. Maybe we miss the depth of feeling that normals experience. Maybe we don’t – miss it, that is. I do know that I would not trade the love I felt from her and for her for not feeling the pain now. Maybe that’s what being human is. Makes me feel a little lucky to be not so human. Sometimes.


Riding the Ridge

No, no mentions of Denzel Washington here (outside of this mention). Ever notice you could take him from any movie he’s in and put him into any other movie he’s in and nothing about him would change? He’s not really a character-driven actor. He drives the character. In other words, there’s a whole bunch of characters who act exactly like Denzel Washington. I call that a one-trick pony.

In any event. The February 10th Showdown on the Lowdown… er… Love Ride is coming up. Chico Velo historically had this as a tandems event, so it’s pretty low impact. 40 (around the Buttes), 60 (from the Fairgrounds to around the Buttes and back to the fairground) and 100 (I don’t know the path cause I ain’t taking the path) mile rides. I guess there’s some other side rides and such to vary your mileage to your own personal degree of pain…

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Riding the Ridge

OK, so I visited my LBS today – and I’ve kept the name out since I was miffed at their treatment of me since I’d paid for the bike, but here it is: North Rim Adventures in Chico. I bought the bike from Alex with some help from Kat. The owner, or who I’m guessing is the owner, was also there and even while I was preparing to spend money on the bike, largely ignored me. No one fitted me. They only pulled bikes for me to test when I pointed them out.

Alex was and is, great. He initially tried to point me toward the ‘comfort’ bikes, but as my list showed, I wasn’t having any of that. He’s great – when it comes to selling bikes. He seems to know nothing about the components or upgradability or which tires are best – basically, not much other than selling…

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Moving my cycling posts to my new blog: Ascending to Paradise!

Riding the Ridge

Paradise, California sits along a section of the foothills known locally as ‘the Ridge’. The Skyway, which is one of the four main roads to Paradise, runs from Chico (at around 100′) to Inskip (at around 5000′) and now, beyond to Butte Meadows. Along the way, as you climb, you’ll run into Paradise, Magalia, Lovelock (pop 10), Stirling City (pop 300) and finally Inskip (pop 3 if they aren’t out shopping). The Ridge itself is a narrow backbone of rock and dirt running between two small valleys. One side contains the Feather River, the other, an area known locally as the Little Grand Canyon or Butte Canyon. One of the two Chico Creeks runs through Butte Canyon and Honey Run runs alongside the creek. If you take Honey Run, you’ll also pass by the Honey Run Covered Bridge and then come to Centerville (pop 20?) before climbing up to Paradise…

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We in Jefferson have been lucky of late. Well, lucky in terms of weather. For the past two years (my own tragedy notwithstanding), we’ve been blessed with fairly mild weather. To those in the Bay Area or most of coastal SoCal, extremes of weather mean it actually is raining or it’s 100f out. To the residents of the State of Jefferson – and in particular those of the Ridge, however, extremes are the norm. From sub-freezing with the occasional snow winters to above-100 weeks, the Ridge has it all.

Since I spent most of my life in the Bay Area, that is my ‘norm’. Half an inch of rain in a storm makes for accidents, floods and general craziness down there. 100+ not so much – most of the East Bay is bathed in heat and sun all summer long. South, East and North Bay has it a bit easier. Therefore, extremes in the ‘Bay are not really extreme. Not the case up here.

From the Northern part of the Central Valley, up the sides of the foothills on either side: to the East, the foothills of the Coastal Mountain range, to the West, the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. To the North, should you be up in the Redding area, you have the beginnings of the Cascades and Mount Shasta. But in all these areas, you have extremes. 100+ is the norm during the long summer days of June through late September. And unlike the Bay Area, there is no Delta breeze at nights. We’ve had many a midnight still looking at 90f. Too, the wind is a holy terror here. No, not like the 100+ winds whipping through Clayton and Pittsburg. Their claim to fame is speed – but mostly in the unoccupied hills. No, when Jefferson is slapped by the invisible hand of wind (apologies to Adam Smith), it carries the devil’s fire.

July begins the fire season and it runs till the first rains of October. The three months of summer often never see humidity levels rise above 20% (it’s a DRY heat, they say!). Add to that the 100f temps and you certainly have a recipe for fire.

However, I started talking about our recent blessings. We’ve had mild weather for two years. Uncommonly cool, 90’s and such, summers and rainy, but not rain forest range winters. Just to give you a measuring stick: while half an inch paralyzes our comrades in the BA, our first (JUNE!) weekend here came complete with 2″ in 14 hours. That’s cool, cause that December, we had our first ‘big’ rain: 11″ in 24 hours. Our creek rose 5 feet and our garage flooded. This is a creek that typically runs at from 8″ to around 24″. So it went to 96″. And my garage.

The wonderful weather we’ve had seems to be at an end. While the first six months of the year have been quiet, the last six look to be scary. Ah well, all good things must come to an end. Tho I’m not sure why.


Merry Christmas and All That!

Indeed, Christmas and Winter are once again upon us. Doesn’t seem to matter that it comes at the same time, in fact, the same date, every year. I always feel unprepared. I’m not sure if I’m just so self-centered that I don’t recognize the signals others send me as to what they want or if I’m just freakin’ dense. I always have a tough time finding gifts for people. It bugs me because there are folks I know, albeit almost exclusively females, that seem to know not only what to get, but how it somehow fits right into your life.

The way I do Christmas shopping is simple: I know who I have to buy for and then look at what they do. My philosophy when it comes to gift buying is equally simple: get either something that they’d like, want or need for the things they do in their lives (like a hobby) or something they’d not buy for themselves normally. In the latter case, maybe something they’d like to have, but is too expensive or off the charts to spend money on for themselves. It might be an expensive pan for someone who likes to cook or a fancy leash for the dog fanatic. I’m not saying I’ve bought those, just the only two examples I could come up with right now…

Those type of gifts seem…superficial. They are something that anyone, given a little insight into someone else’s life, could purchase. That bugs me.

Somehow, the females in my life (and those I simply know), have this sixth sense about what thing you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. Those are the gifts that really stand out. Every year, I rack my brains for that stuff. Perhaps my mind doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t see the unseen, the stuff that requires a jump to recognize.

I know that I’m extremely good, better than that, at solving problems. Particularly technical or abstract issues that require a lot of dots to be connected. I’ve also got a knack, if I can say so about myself, for conducting scientific-method testing in order to obtain answers for problems – or to construct processes for performing certain complex tasks. I’m great at logic based problems and solutions. I can also glean answers from relatively little data. But I can’t figure out, not for the life of me, how to give those cool gifts that others give.

I’ve done the “I can spend more than you” type gifts. I’ve done the “mine is bigger” route. I just can’t make that connection between what is better and what is wanted. ARRG!

NEXT YEAR, I’m really going to pay attention. I know those signals are there. I’ll just be more observant. Yeah, next year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Weather Concerns and New Toys

Tonite’s big storm is the first since March 25 of this year. Why does that date stick in my mind? Simple. That was the date a 120′ tree smashed through the back of my house. Six months later, we’re just finishing up the repairs. Needless to say, I’m just a bit concerned.

While I’m sure we’ll (clearing throat sounds) weather the storm, it is only the first of the season and the season does (always) worry me. Living in a town carved out of and amongst huge trees is a constant worry. Fires in the 100 plus degree summers. Falling trees and floods in the wild winters (110″ of rain our first winter here – and yes, we did flood living on the side of the foothills!!). Not to mention the aging electrical infrastructure that fails frequently during rough weather.

In order to sustain myself and make sure I had something to do in those dark hours of powerless cold, I bought my new lappy!! Should be here tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Ya gotta love the day-by-day life of living in the state of Jefferson!