A WHOLLY ANALOG APPROACH TO ‘FRIENDING’

Dad says some funny things sometimes.

Like:

"Facebook is a lot like sobriety. You see how utterly boring your ‘friends’ really are."

Dad’s friends are actually pretty cool. I’ve met most of them. So I think he’s referring to the ‘six degree’ people—those who have ‘friended’ him because of mutual acquaintances, but seem to have nothing in common. When I take dad out for walks, nobody really says “hello” to us. Not even our neighbors, many of whom are ‘friends’ with dad on Facebook. I think that’s really odd.

I had a Facebook page for a while—people could ‘poke’ me. And they did. But why? So I cancelled it. Ultimately, Vizslas don’t need any algorithm to make friends. Our approach is wholly analog:

I see you. I ‘like’ you by wagging my tail. I ‘friend’ you with kisses. 

Hence, I am surprised at how much time humans dedicate to interacting with each other on their computers and online while barely noticing each other in the real world. But I am really shocked at how much control they are willing to hand over to Facebook to help them ‘connect’ with other people. Dad often looks at his friend requests and says “Who are you?”

Dad’s mom, my grandma, is on Facebook too. But she has a different last name, lives in a different city and doesn’t really have much in common with her son, at least according to Facebook. So, her posts never appear on Dad’s wall. Facebook has decided that she is not relevant to him.

And here is the lesson: 

It’s ok.  That just means dad has to call her more often.

man himself cannot express love … so plainly as does a dog, when with drooping ears, hanging lips, flexuous body and wagging tail, he meets his beloved master.
charles darwin
one nine eight four

Dad left his book on today.

Dad reads a lot. He reads newspapers and magazines as well as a lot of novels, biographies and other non-fiction. I can’t count very well, but I would say he reads about an hour or more a day. Maybe more on the weekends and vacation. About 2 years ago he made the leap from real books to e-books on something called a Nook.

Well, dad was reading while he had his morning coffee this morning and he forgot to turn his book off. So I decided to check it out. I am a pretty good reader.

Dad was reading a book titled one nine eight four—it’s about a man and a woman in a really bad place where a mean man called ‘big brother’ suppresses all free will and maintains power by crushing the spirit of anyone who expresses any kind of free thought.  Also, there don’t seem to be any dogs in this place.

There are a lot of horrifying things in this book, but the scariest thing by far is “the thing in room 101”.

The thing in room 101 is purposely kept ambiguous and unexplained to the larger population, but everyone knows it’s “the worst thing in the world”. The fear of the unknown is really much scarier than anything anything the government could conceive.

It turns out that the thing in room 101 changes from person to person to address their deepest most private fears. For Winston, the main character, it was rats that would gnaw away at his face. That really scared me.

For me, uncertainty itself causes a LOT of anxiety. Especially when I am alone. Sometimes dad doesn’t come home on time—either he has to work late or has to meet with friends—which makes me anxious.  What if he isn’t coming home? What if he is trying to find me food and can’t find any?What if he is getting another kitty?

I think that would be the worst thing in the world for me.  My own personal room 101.

SUMMERTIME

It’s nine degrees fahrenheit tonight…

…and I am already thinking about the summer.  Dad likes to take me to this place called Provincetown. We both really like it. I get to bask and sleep in the warm sun while dad reads. It’s lazy days. Dad listens to a lot of jazz music too. My only complaint is that Dad likes to wake up early and watch the sun rise. He makes me walk down to the beach with him. It’s really pretty but I would rather stay in bed a little longer.

Anyway, this is what I am dreaming of on this cold winter night, buried under my blankets, keeping dads feet warm.

p.s. This is a picture dad took from the little bungalow we stay at in Provincetown last summer.

ELEMENTS OF EFFORT

Dad has a bicycle named Linus. 

Today is kind of a big day for dad. See, dad has been running most of his life—he even ran in a few marathons and races and did quite well. I helped him train for them! We always ran outside, even in the coldest, wettest, snowiest or iciest conditions. We live in Boston, MA, so it gets pretty intense. But then one day dad got an injury—I don’t really understand it but it has kept us from running for nearly 2 full years.

So dad got a bike named Linus to try to keep up his physical condition (dad hates gyms). Dad takes Linus out, without me, almost every day. Well, almost every day. However, he can’t really take Linus out in the kind of conditions that we used to run in. Once it’s too cold or icy, Linus goes into hibernation.

Dad has been saying how thankful he is that the weather has been mild enough to keep Linus awake throughout December.  But the forecast is about to change dramatically, so dad says Linus is going into hibernation soon.

Here is the thing. I know something dad doesn’t know: As much as he likes Linus, he doesn’t see how Linus has kept him from taking those first few steps to start running again.  Don’t me wrong.  Linus is a great bicycle.  And a good looking one too.  But I know that dad could have started running again a few months ago. I think he is a bit scared. He is probably worried that he will get injured again. Or is embarassed by the fact that he has to ease into it after being such an avid runner all his life.

But today I have made it clear that if he is not ready to start running again, I am! So dad has promised me that we are going to start running again today! It will be a quick walk/jog for now, but by the Spring I bet we will be back to our old stride, and dad will be back to his old self.

Linus is welcome to stay, but I will be dad’s athletic partner and cheerleader once again.

Welcome back, dad.

FUNNY LITTLE LIST

Wow. Dad must have been very thirsty last night. He sure drank a lot.

Humans are funny. They only give themselves a few special days each year—days to celebrate life, or be thankful, or even accomplish something terrific.  Dogs, especially Vizslas like myself, are completely different. Yesterday I chewed up a pair of dads socks, and got in trouble. But yesterday was still the greatest day ever!  And I am pretty sure today will be even better. Because everyday is special.

Dad is the worst at enjoying life.  I try to show him all the really simple stuff he is missing out on, but he is always striving or worried or running out of time. 

I have come to believe the source of his seriousness is a funny little list he pulls out this time every year. It’s a list of things he thinks will make his life better if he can achieve them. It hangs on the refrigerator for a few months, then it gets discarded and the ‘goals’ are abandoned. So what’s the point?

Here are a few things on dad’s funny little list this year:

  • Exhibit more patience
  • Be more understanding
  • Save more $$
  • Beat 2010 half-marathon time

Nothing wrong with those goals. But if dad were to ask me, I would give him only one new year’s resolution:

  • Just be yourself. All else will follow.

It’s worked for me for almost 4 years now.

So this year I will resolve to keep on being Hugo, and showing dad how wonderful life is.

Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.
Anonymous
AFTER THE MOVIE

Last night dad fell asleep watching the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. I was wide awake and stayed up until the end of the film, which was really very gripping, if somewhat disturbing. I look forward to the next 2 films. I also look forward to seeing how the Hollywood version compares.

However, it was after the movie stopped, and the ‘On-Demand’ feature clicked off, when things got really interesting. While dad was snoozing in his comfy chair, I was left to watch some late night news channel—I still have not learned how to use the remote. On the TV, there were a bunch of humans arguing about this thing called a ‘payroll tax’. Everyone was really mad about it but no one would explain what it was. It sounded like a tax that dad has to pay when he gets paid, right? but why? So I looked it up. 

It turns out that the payroll tax money taken out of dad’s paycheck is supposed to pay for Social Security. A few years ago the President gave everyone a reduced payroll tax rate so they could keep more of their own money, which makes sense in a tight economy. But meanwhile the Cato Institute is warning that as American’s live longer Social Security is going to become insolvent without a tax increase. So it seems this payroll tax cut is really a double-edged sword.

My question is this: How come when all the humans talk and yell about the payroll tax, they never refer to its impact on Social Security?

Now I know dad has very strong opinions about this. I don’t really have much of an opinion about it either way—I trust the humans to manage their own affairs.  But I do wish they would at least be honest about these very important debates.