Wednesday, July 26, 2017

If dogs could talk

You already know how I give my pets a downright litany of nicknames, but what you might not know is that I also give my pets a voice.

I mean that not in the figurative sense (as do, say, the animal rights organizations), but in the literal one: I speak aloud what my pets are surely thinking, and each pet gets a voice tailored specifically to him or her.

The voice development process usually happens organically. I start out with a pretty generic voice every time—A slightly deeper tone than my own for the boy pets, a slightly higher and sweeter one for the girl pets. Yet somehow, over time, every pet's voice morphs into a perfect representation of their personality.

A never-before seen picture of these two clowns. Jack Jack is, as usual,
more asleep than not, while Bubalou is begging, "Tummy rubs!"

Our two dogs now have very different voices. Jack Jack, the one whose dominant character trait is laziness, got a low (but not too low) voice with a distinctly whiny edge to it and a hint of a lisp. Bubalou got a high-pitched, fast-talking squeaky voice, inspired by his boundless enthusiasm, pervasive anxiety, and (extremely piercing) yip that he lets out when he's especially distraught.

Once your dog has a voice, it just follows naturally that he will have a tagline or two. Here is the story of Bubalou's. 

Bubalou loves to go in the car. "We're going someplace!!" and "I'm coming with you!!" are two of his favorite lines when he can sense that we're getting ready to leave the house. He loves to be taken pretty much anywhere — for a walk, just outside, to the bathroom with you — but he really gets pumped to go in the car. After some observation, it became obvious that his favorite thing about being in the car was smelling the air around him. He could be perfectly calm, lying down obediently in the back, and you could crack the window and he'd be up like a shot, sniffing the air, clambering over everything and everyone to get his nose closer to the window. And what does he say while he's indulging in this little display of unbridled excitement? "SMELLS!" Loud and squeaky and with every ounce of enthusiasm a dog could muster. Bubalou can be quite talkative when he's excited, and much of his verbiage boils down to his enthusiasm for smells.

Another thing Bubalou likes to say is "I'm a bad boy!" He says this with great pride because, while cute and puffy and completely incapable of committing a vindictive act, Bubalou likes to think he has a wild side. He would never overtly disobey his humans (although he's stupid enough to misunderstand pretty much every command you give him), but he doesn't necessarily like to come when called. So when he's out wandering in nature, if he's far enough away from you, he'll pretend he doesn't hear you yelling his name. He'll just keep happily sniffing the ground, ignoring you completely. You know he can hear you, but he knows he's just far enough away to get away with it. Likewise, whenever he's out of sight, he takes advantage of that solitude to pee on something. Other than cuddling, his favorite pastime might very well be depositing his bodily waste in as many locations as he possibly can. When you come home to his latest masterpiece, he'll come running up to you, tail wagging, with a smile on his face, and you can just hear it in your head: "Look what I did! I'm a bad boy!"

Jack Jack, on the other hand, seems to have a healthy fear of being a bad boy, as evidenced by his submissive cowering when I come home to a mess (even if Bubalou made it!) so he would never go around congratulating himself for his misbehavior. Although personally I think his tagline should be, "I don't wanna do it," because he never wants to do anything except lie on the bed, that is not how things shook out. Instead Jack Jack's personal phrase is any variation on "I love grass! And girls!"

Jack Jack has an inordinate love for grass. If you take him outside (provided it's not raining, in which case he'll turn in to a statue and pout), he will shed his normally prissy demeanor and have an exuberant roll in the grass. The other thing he really likes is girls. He loves getting attention from any human really, but he gets so excited about meeting "pretty girls" that he loses control of his bladder when he sees them. Can you imagine what happens when he meets several pretty girls while he happens to be in a grassy area? Well, it has happened on the university campus, and I've seen him get so amped up that he's suddenly blasted out of the crowd and done a circuit around the mall that would make a greyhound proud.

Although Jack Jack has no chill around girls and grass, generally he thinks pretty highly of himself, and assumes that he is a necessary part of every activity. No matter what you are doing, he will stride right up to you and stand in a regal posture while staring you directly in the eyes. "I'm here," he'll say, with the unspoken part being "What are your other two wishes?" He uses this line especially frequently when you are eating, because he knows that it is his divine right to be fed your human food bite by bite, until it is all gone.

If subtlety fails, he will continue the conversation in a very courtly way: "I'm here, Daddy. I don't know if you noticed, but you have forgotten to feed me any of that delicious turkey you have on your plate. I suggest that you rectify this oversight promptly. I'm right here, waiting. I'm right here. I'm here."
"I can't believe you're taking all these pictures instead of feeding me."
Well, now, I could go on and on and on about the fictitious conversations I've had with my dogs, but I guess I'd better wrap this up into some kind of takeaway. And that is the following: It can be fun to have dogs. It can be fun to talk about your dogs. But the funnest of all is talking like you are your dogs!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Loves and Loathes of my life

It is time to rhapsodize. Naturally, it is also time to complain, but we'll get to that in a minute. First, I'd like to tell you about some of the loves of my life.

Loves of my life

  1. Bubbles

  2. As in air bubbles rising up through a liquid. While floating soap bubbles are fun to create and chase around like a toddler (yes, I'm 33, and yes, I still sometimes chase bubbles), I am particularly amazed by how bubbles look when you're underwater and you see them rising up around you. They don't look at all like those perfect round bubbles I'm always doodling—rather, they flatten out like mushroom caps and wiggle their way awkwardly to the surface.They remind me of cute little jellyfish. When I first conceived this list, I thought that was all I was going to have to say about bubbles, but then I noticed these in the bottom of my Diet Coke on an airplane.

    Aren't they just the most lovely little spheres?
  3. Lists

    While we're on the topic of this list, let's talk about how much I love lists in general. I have a whole category for them in my blog. I have 199 notes in Evernote (at this very moment), many of which are lists. I love articles in list format (they call them "listicles" now, though I'm not sure I'm ready to adopt that term into my vocabulary), I love keeping lists to keep me organized, and even the way a short, concise bulleted list looks. Whoever thought up the idea of a list surely deserves a spot in the top ten greatest inventors of all time!
  4. Color gradients

    There was a time when color gradients were a very popular thing to do in design (it happened to be while I was in design school!)—so popular that our classmate who was already a professional designer warned us all against using them (that and drop shadows) unless we had a very good reason for doing so. For a few years, that scared me off of using gradients, but I love them! Who am I to go against my true nature? There's something inherently soothing about the smooth progression from one color to another that I can't explain, but only enjoy. To celebrate, here's a picture of one of the first digital gradients I ever employed in my art!
  5. The heater in my office

    It's summer now, but winter will be here soon enough, and rather than find something about it to complain about (as I usually do in my "loves and loathes posts), I'm going to take the positive route and mention something that's nice about it: my personal heater in my office. Despite the wide variance in comfortable human temperature preferences, most office buildings nonetheless try to set a sitewide temperature that suits a majority of the inhabitants – which never includes me – but in our building (or at least many parts of it), each individual room has its own heating/air-conditioning unit. This means that I'm free to set my office temperature to 80 in the winter (it never quite reaches 80, but at least it tries) and turn off the air completely in the summer. Of the many things I really appreciate about my job, this is definitely up there near the top. One can be so much more productive when one's fingers are not frozen stiff!

Loathes of my life

  1. Clattering dishes together

    I absolutely can't stand the sound that occurs when I am putting away dishes and I accidentally knock two of them together. Strangely, I used to work in a restaurant and the sound never bothered me, even though it was a pretty much constant racket. I am fairly good at ignoring loud noises, as long as they are occurring ambiently, but apparently, one type of noise I can't tune out is one that I make myself. It's enough to make me want to replace all my dishes with plastic!
  2. Everything about sunscreen

    Sun avoidance is a regular part of my lifestyle these days, but it's somewhat disheartening that I have yet to find a sunscreen I don't despise. The skin experts annoyingly bombard me with reminders that "even if you're in the shade, you're still getting exposed to UV light," and "windows don't block out harmful rays," and "You should be wearing sunscreen every day—no exceptions!" These reminders are annoying because they put me between a rock and a hard place—between blatantly ignoring the advice that could save me from both visible aging and cancer, and having to wear a nasty goop on my skin all day every day! Ugh! Don't try to offer a suggestion for a sunscreen that's less disgusting than the others, because they're all disgusting! Texture not even withstanding (although I have lots of complaints in that department too), they all stink, and I mean that literally. The chemical sunscreens smell like chemicals, and the physical sunscreens smell like dust. No matter how much perfume has been added, there's no getting around the fact that the active ingredients make me feel like I've doused myself in my own personal nightmare. Why does living healthy have to be so unpleasant!?
  3. Going to the bathroom at class-change time

    While it's great to have a personal heater, there are of course things I dislike about my job. One of them is the very people that make my employment possible: the students on campus! Again, because it is summer, at present I don't need to deal with this problem, but during the semester I am routinely inconvenienced. Like any normal human, I prefer to perform my bodily functions in private, but more often than I can explain, just as I am heading to the loo, I am rushed by a stream of students all leaving class at the same time, crowding into the bathroom and completely ruining my peace and solitude! I actually memorized the university's class schedule so that I could save my bathroom breaks for an off-time, but it seems like at least once every day, I slip up and have to face the herd. Sometimes when I get up to use the bathroom, I immediately turn around and go back to my office, to wait another 10 minutes until the hallway has cleared. Speaking of bathrooms...
  4. People playing on their phones while leaving the bathroom without washing their hands

    No, really! This just happened yesterday! I was in the bathroom washing my hands, when a person left the stall and passed me (and all the sinks) to go have a look in the full-length mirror, poking away at her cell phone the whole time. Like, ew, which hand did you wipe with, because you're using both of them on your phone right now! I cannot say for sure that this particular person didn't return to the sinks after I left, but I do know that it was already too late for her phone. I can't believe that educated adults (hello, this was at a university!), living in a world with ebola, still aren't washing their hands after using the toilet. This could possibly be the absolute number-one item on my list of loathes...ever.