How Dogs Exploited the Evolutionary Niche Called People


My Golden Retreiver is thirteen years old.

I know that we anthropomophize dogs. I am aware that the money I spend on my dogs would more than double the income of the average family in Chad. It’s an intellectual consideration that is completely overwhelmed by my emotional reaction to the dog. I could no more decide to euthanize the dog and send the money to Chad than I could decide to euthanize Bob.

Dogs trigger the same general reaction in us as family. That’s the biology of the dog/human relationship. And of the cat/human relationship as well.

We tend to think that we domesticated dogs. We saw dogs, we decided we wanted them in our lives and we set about making it so by breeding them for the traits we liked. Actually, evolutionarily speaking, dogs exploited us. We’re their ecological nitch. Continue reading

Soft Addiction


I have a cold so I’m watching a lot of television. The dogs drift in and out of the room, pleased that I’m home from Readercon but subtly disappointed I’m not Howard Waldrop. I am watching a television show called The Secret Lives of Women. Each show is an hour long and consists of several interviews, interspersed documentary style, with several women who have some sort of social issue. One episode is about women in plural marriages. One episode is about eating disorders. One is about women with Munchhausen Syndrome By Proxy (those women are all in jail and decline to be interviewed so the show interviews police, experts and two women whose mothers had MSP.) The shows tend to be very straight forward and rather superficial. The show on Munchhausen Syndrome By Proxy has an expert talking about how we have to be on the look out for MSP because the death rate for children abused this way is 10%. There’s no discussion of the rarity of the syndrome or of the growing controversy that it is apparently often applied to women who do in fact have sick children, particularly if those women are working class, poor, and/or minorities. Continue reading

A National Treasure

We’re going to Readercon tomorrow and while we are gone, we’re having someone house sit for us. Howard Waldrop is watching my dogs.

This doesn’t happen in Ohio. I mean, Howard Waldrop is a national treasure. We’re having a national treasure watch our house. This is a little like having Princess Di watch your house, except that Howard wasn’t hounded to death by papparazzi. I’m assuming if you read Eat Our Brains, you probably know Howard, or know of him. Me, I didn’t meet Howard until a couple of years ago. I met him at Walter Jon William’s Rio Hondo Workshop. The fact that Walter invites me to the Rio Hondo workshop already makes me feel pretty cool. The fact that Howard was coming made me a little nervous. I’d heard lots of stories about Howard, like how he doesn’t use a computer and how he gave a lecture on how to live on $4,638 a year and he sounded facsinating, but what if I wasn’t, you know, cool enough? People who’s opinion I respected a great deal adore Howard. What if I somehow failed to measure up?

Howard doesn’t measure. Howard is generous of spirit. And he knows more stuff than almost anybody. Howard and I got into a discussion of the fall of the empires of mezo-America and the effects of unexpected amounts of rain on the Pueblo cultures. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a conversation so much as I listened and thought, damn, I’d never heard about that. It was cool. Especially when you realize that this guy doesn’t have google.

I have tried really hard to impress on the dogs that Howard is going to be staying here for a few days. The good news is that Howard has met my dogs and, well, Howard likes dogs. And my dogs like Howard. But they aren’t going to be treating him with proper reverance.

The good thing is, I think Howard prefers it that way.

(This link to Howard’s story, The Ugly Chickens, isn’t supposed to work anymore, but as I type this, it still is.)

Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman…

Dear Hillary,

We don’t know each other, so it may seem a bit presumptuous for me to be writing to you. But after your eight years in the White House, and your seven years as Senator, I feel as if I know you just a little. And that’s why I’m writing now, because, girl, you need some talking to.

I know you’ve spent a lifetime in politics. You’ve been a tireless advocate for children’s rights. You were a Republican who became a Democrat after the assassination of Martin Luther King. You also worked for the committee that was investigating Richard Nixon during the Watergate Scandal. As First Lady, you tried to implement universal healthcare, but were stymied by your political adversaries. Your life has been one primarily of service.

Sadly, this is not what people know you for. And that’s the problem. While I think you’d do quite well as President — and Bill as the first First Man would be a thing to behold — I think the baggage that you’re bringing to the table may far outweigh your positives. And given the absolute shambles the country is in right now, we can’t afford another Republican in the White House.

You’ve got an image problem that no amount of nifty TV ads is going to cure. And sadly, the first hit to your image is one you inflicted yourself. It’s the ridiculous and infamous “cookie” remark. You managed to piss off about half of the women in the country with that. And those women won’t forget it. Smart women I know are still pissed at you about that. Look, it’s moronic. But it’s the truth. You showed contempt for women who chose a different career path than you, and they will never forgive that. (We could have a nice long chat over tea about the whole “Mommy Wars” thing. But suffice it to say, you lobbed a whopping, big-ass grenade into the middle of that – and in such situations, there is always blowback.)

The second problem is tied to the first problem: Bill.

Continue reading

Dogs Dogs Dogs


It’s been vet week at the manse. Both dogs have been in and out of the vet’s for the last week and a half. First, The Big Dog went in for her annual blood tests and something weird came back which required her to be tested for Cushings Disease. It turned out she was fine. But then The Little Dog’s ears developed some sort of rash and this has led to tests for endrocinological malfunction.

When The Big Dog was young, one day I was stomping through the woods in an oversized and ragged green barn coat that I had stolen from Bob, and I realized had Bob not married me, I would be a Dog Lady. Dog Ladies are marginally less appalling that Cat Ladies only because we get out more. After all, the dogs need to walk. However, I would rapidly become a person who likes dogs better than people. A lot of times, I already do. I could see me, aging, make-up less, hair in a tangle, grumpy, with two dogs who slept on the furniture and basically ran the house.

Okay. I am aging, I don’t wear make-up, I’m lucky if I bother with the blow dryer once a week, and the dogs sleep on the furniture.

But dog ownership raises all sorts of weird conundrums. Continue reading