Pavlova and I had an interesting encounter in the churchyard this morning, with two women and three dogs. I’m not messing around with dogs I don’t know, and I picked Pavlova up (to her considerable ire). The woman with the two spaniels, who I’ve seen before, said half in alarm and half in accusation, Where are the whippets? At home! I said, and she relaxed. What do they think of this one? she said. Not a lot, I said. One of them will put up with her bouncing on him and the other one runs away.* But by now both women were falling under the spell of Pavlova’s manifest adorableness. Both said they’d never seen a baby bullie before. I said hastily (I’m getting kind of used to saying this hastily) she’s a MINI! She’s not ever going to get really big! And so we discussed relative sizes for a while, and I said she’d probably weigh about the same as a hellhound**, but she would be short and square. They said, what’s a bull terrier like, after five whippets/hellhounds in a row? Hungry, I said. She is hungry all the time. It makes a change. But really . . . she’s like a puppy. She’s more like a puppy than she’s like some strange unique bull terrier thing, although I’m still kind of worrying that the strange unique bull terrier thing will emerge later. The one thing I knew I was worrying about was bite inhibition, and even at nine weeks when I got her she already had bull terrier jaws. But screaming and picking her up seems to be working really well.
The woman with two spaniels stared at me as if I’d grown a second head and it was making rude faces at her. Bite inhibition? she said cautiously.
Yes, I said. All puppies bite. It’s how you teach them not to bite too hard. Don’t you know about this? —One of her spaniels was only half grown.
She shook her head.
Ah um, I said. Well, puppies bite each other, and when the sibling they’re biting cries, the biter backs off. So you’re kind of pretending to be another puppy. Picking her up—which her breeder suggested—reinforces that something has happened, since bullies tend to be a bit stubborn and single-minded.***
And it works? said the woman with the half-grown spaniel.
Yes, I said.† It’s not a perfect system [fortunately I was wearing long sleeves] but it does work.
We went our separate ways (Pavlova instantly shot off after those fascinating other dogs, and it took several bits of kibble to get her pointed in the right direction again) but there’s something that I haven’t seen mentioned in any of the puppy books I’ve read. This didn’t happen with the hellhounds, probably because they had each other, and furthermore they have never been great munchers of anything.†† But Pavlova would rather bite me than any of her toys††† and I can see her backing off so she can bite me. In something stubborn, single-minded, prone to the Mad Scampers and twelve weeks old, this seems to me a high level of getting-it-ness.‡
* * *
* I am aware this is not an unusual reaction. Lots of grown dogs don’t like puppies because they scuttle^ around so in a manic and unpredictable manner. I understand this. It’s my attitude toward spiders.
^ All puppies—and some grown up dogs—have a frenzied-dash setting. It’s not as conspicuous in sighthounds because they’re built to move at extreme speed and pretty much can’t make an ungraceful gesture. Hazel, the smallest of the previous generation of whippets, used to swap ends while running at top speed, which was a hoot—but it was still beautiful. Bull terriers have a kind of special take on the frenzied dash which is called hucklebutting. Southdowner and Olivia say they all do it, it’s just a question of CONTAINMENT. There are a lot of videos on YouTube of hucklebutting and bullies generally . . . most of it fairly scary, or maybe I’m just clicking on the wrong clips. Bullies are lovely dogs, given decent genes and a decent upbringing. It’s not necessary to risk death and the loss of all your worldly goods because you’ve got a hucklebutting bullie. Anyway. Pavlova has always dashed around because she’s a puppy, but this last week she’s starting to do proper hucklebutts. You can see one coming on: she gets a light in her eye and drops down a level, which is something that none of the videos show properly because they’re taken from human height or at least from above, and she then streaks across the floor—since she only goes out on lead she hasn’t had the chance to try it outside yet—in forty directions at once, belly just about brushing the floor, zigzagging as if she’s dodging sniper bullets. It’s hilarious.
At the mews the hellhounds are in an open bed—at the cottage downstairs they sleep in their crate, and I can close the door against puppy attack—which I wall off with my knapsack and canvas briefcase to prevent her from getting at them+—but if she plunges past, which she is more likely to at the mews because there’s more open floor space, Darkness moans.++
+ And which, just by the way, is only going to work a week or so longer because she’s getting LARGE ENOUGH TO CLIMB OVER.
++ I thought I was being clever by sending hellhounds upstairs to their favourite bed in my office at the cottage while I strove with the hellterror in the kitchen. Nope. Hellhounds muster on the stairs, peering through the banisters . . . and both moan.
Chaos, who is still trying, will stand there—and occasionally lie—while Pavlova climbs all over him at blur speed, as witnessed in those photos a few days ago, but emits quite a complex moan when he Doesn’t Think He Can Bear It A Moment Longer. Whereupon I remove her.
** I’m telling myself that her feet aren’t very big. So she’s not going to get enormous.^
^ Of course bullie feet are pretty small, proportionately. . . .
*** But so do sighthounds. Not so different really.
† I didn’t think of it at the time, but I don’t know how it’s going to work on a half-grown dog who hasn’t been biting his siblings in several months.
†† She says feelingly
††† Note: sigh. Although I think it’s also a relationship thing. Puppies interact by biting. And again I say: siiiiiigh. Couldn’t we have domesticated something to be our fireside companions 40,000 years ago that interacted by tail wagging or bringing flowers and chocolates or something?
‡ It’s still not a perfect system. I’m glad it’s cold enough to wear long sleeves.
And for anyone interested in dog behaviour* and dog training styles** this is a fascinating article: http://www.examiner.com/article/dog-whispering-the-21st-century ***
* * *
* Thank you Southdowner
** with or without new puppy in lap & typing 1-fingered
*** Note mention of Patricia McConnell in notes, who some1 on forum mentioned a day or 2 ago. Have bookmarked her blog: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/
THIS TIME TOMORROW I WILL BE ALONE WITH A PUPPY. And two seriously unthrilled hellhounds* and a husband who has gone to bed. I didn’t sleep at all last night because every time I began to drift off I was mobbed by gigantic hellterrors** with antlers and talons like an eagle’s and whole rows of fangs and little red glittering eyes.*** I think possibly I have an attitude problem. AAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Why didn’t I stick to that delinquent-gorilla-fostering programme? Why did I think I wanted a bull terrier puppy?
To my utter lack of surprise, I have not managed to finish this editorial tweak of SHADOWS so I will have the interesting experience of trying to work with a puppy in my lap since I’m going to try this Holding Strategy which is supposed to produce Calm Laid Back dogs, even when they were bullies to begin with.† It will be even more interesting when I print the whole ms out and try to read hard copy . . . with a puppy in my lap. . . .
Did I say AAAAAAAAAAUGH? Let me say it again. AAAAAAAAAAAUGH.††
* * *
*Who are presently crashed out in their standard post-dinner-struggle manner. I am ravaged by guilt. They don’t realise The World Changes tomorrow.^ Guys! Wake up! This is your last evening! Er . . . let me rephrase that . . . last evening when there’s only four of us.^^ You should be awake! Having precision nostalgia and glaring at me! You don’t realise how exquisite our time on the sofa was tonight!^^^
^ Although I think Darkness has suspicions that something is not going to hellhound plan. Chaos looks at the travelling crate that has been riding in the back of the car with them all week and thinks, well, whatever, humans are weird. Darkness looks at it and thinks whaaaaaaaat is this about. It’s the same with the new crate in the sitting room at the mews. Chaos thinks eh, it’s a thing, isn’t it time for another walk so I can mug my brother some more? Darkness thinks, hmmmmmmmm, what is she up to? Today I draped a blanket over the crate so it’ll be more secure and den-like for a puppy who weighs about one-tenth of a hellhound,# and fluffed up one of the polyester throws I use as hellhound bedding inside the crate, and Chaos opened one eye and closed it again and Darkness sat up and stared.##
^^ Unless you count frelling computers, rosebushes, my piano and/or Wolfgang.
^^^ Have I mentioned the difficulties of knitting with a hellhound in your lap? You do hear about people’s hands and wrists starting to hurt if they knit too much, or to a really tiny gauge, or a frelling frelling frelling pattern, or a hard unyielding yarn, but you don’t hear so much about eye- and shoulder-strain from knitting holding your needles over your head. If I forget and bits start trailing across Resident Hellhound+, RH tends to kick violently. Stitches can be lost this way, never mind the bruises. And I still haven’t figured out a successful plan for handling something that gets larger than a leg warmer, like the back or front of a sweater. Have I mentioned that I’ve started another sweater? No, I haven’t finished the first one. I haven’t quite finished knitting the second sleeve . . . and I don’t want to face finding out that the bits don’t fit together. I especially don’t want to find this out on a week when other things are happening. Like your family is increasing by one hairy four-legged incontinent member.
+ Usually Chaos. Darkness customarily lies tactfully along my leg or (excellent as the weather gets colder) across my feet.
# Although not for long. Although I’ve had several people tell me soothingly that the biggest puppy in the litter does not necessarily grow up to be the biggest dog . . . We’re channelling little and delicate here, okay?
## Also there was serious language when I found out what a total pain in the rear the catches on the new crate are. Maybe I should have bought the one that cost three times as much. For a couple of plastic latches? Faugh. I’ll buy clamps at the builders’.
** I don’t even like terriers. But bullies (and Staffies^) are sui generis really.
^ And anything else some outraged terrier owner wants to write in and tell me I don’t know squiff about. Maybe. I don’t like most terriers. But then I don’t like most people. I don’t like most books. I don’t like most things.
*** Not in a good way. For you Hellhound readers.
† HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Um. I wonder if it works in reverse? Will a puppy in the lap calm me down?
†† Olivia and I have been texting each other all evening.
O: Don’t panic. It’s going to 2b fun!
Me: She’s not as big as Yeti [standard bull grandmother, Southdowner's foundation bitch] yet, right?
O: curled up on my lap atm, she is size of Yeti’s head
Me: Yeti has v big head
O: u r impossibull!
Me: I’m abt to b impossibull, 2morro. She’s even cuter than fortnight ago, right?
O: She is adorabull.
Me: . . . text as u leave 2morro?
O: Yes will text you when I set off, that’s a generous 2 hours 4 u 2 run around cottage like headless hen.
Me: THANK U SO MUCH. Is my girl 1st to go?
O: She’s first, having last snuggle on lap, *sniff*. She is sweetie. Only today person who had them 4 day said she was calmest. . . . U believe me, right?????
Me: OF COURSE. WOULD U LIE?
O: Good, be reassured, be very reassured.
Me: Resistance is futile, right?
O: Absolutely. You need wodges of kitchen roll & scads of newspapers—that & ur sanity r all u need to hang onto.
Me: Sanity? Um . . . I think it’s too late.
O: W bullie prob a good thing.
Me: I thot that was why u decided to let me hv 1.
O: Yes u hv sufficient insanity 2 qualify 4 bullie ownership. . . .
. . . . And on that positive note, you will forgive me if I go to bed early, not that I’m going to sleep or anything. . . .
Okay, I don’t rant about readers very often. No matter how many times I start off by saying THE VAST—THE VAST, VASTVASTVAST—MAJORITY, that’s MAJORITY, did you get it that I said MAJORITY? OF PEOPLE WHO WRITE TO ME ABOUT MY BOOKS ARE COMPLIMENTARY AND I AM GLAD TO HEAR FROM THEM,** on the comparatively rare occasions when I do allow my inner vicious cow to express herself I can pretty well guarantee I will, shortly thereafter, receive one or more emails from outraged members of the public*** telling me that I am toxic pond slime, and conceited, and arrogant, and that I don’t deserve to have ANY readers, and that they will tell all their friends not to read me, and occasionally, on a roll, they start telling me that I have no idea what their life is like† and it’s all downhill from there††.
I do not enjoy reading these emails††† and I have to read enough of each of them to know to delete it, you know? But sometimes my inner vicious cow just cannot be silenced. Yesterday I received an email from a teenager doing an Important Project. She is an Aspiring Writer and she has decided that, for her Important Project, she is going to collect a lot of writing advice from fabulous published writers, create a book-shaped object out of this, and dispense copies to all the libraries in her area.‡
She addresses me, one of her chosen fabulous published writers, thus: For years I was reluctant to read your novel, The Dragon and The Sword, solely because my mom recommended.‡‡
So, which one do we think she is referring to? Or has she conflated SWORD and HERO and is fondly remembering a story where a tall/middling blond/redhead from the Homeland/North rides a chestnut/grey to glory involving dragons/monsters/distant relatives‡‡‡?
If you’re going to write to somebody, like maybe an author, like maybe a stranger you’re asking a favour, for pity’s sake DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST.
A few hours after this unlovely email arrived, another one pinged into my inbox from the same person. Oh, I thought, she’s noticed, and she’s writing an embarrassed apology.§ Not at all. She was sending me an extra question that was left out of the earlier version of her questionnaire,§§ to wit, would I be willing to teach a class in a writing seminar day at her school?
Do I get to hope she means via Skype?§§§
* * *
* It did not end well when three of the four of us rushed to the exit after the first act, cheeping with boredom, frustration, and the kind of embarrassment you feel at a good professional troupe wasting their time on tosh, tonight at the theatre.
We all came home during intermission, the fourth of our party having said, oh, well, I didn’t think it was that bad. I had fed hellhounds—and they, for a wonder, had eaten—really early, before we left. I now have a hellhound who is convinced he never had supper. I guess it makes a change from . . . Food? You mean . . . food? We’re supposed to . . . eat this stuff?^
^ Southdowner says that I have to feed Pavlova first. That bullies do like their food, but that the megrims of hellhounds might conceivably put even a bull terrier off.
** Although . . . siiiiiiiiiiigh . . . wouldn’t you think someone writing to an author would be REALLY REALLY REALLY CAREFUL with stuff like grammar and spelling? Okay, looking up grammar^ can sometimes be a ratbag, but spelling? It takes a fraction of a fraction of a second to look something up from pretty much ANY computer programme that produces words any more, and if I see ‘definately’ once more I may run mad with an axe. —Which the faithful Microsoft Word just automatically corrected for me (and is now objecting with a red line to my de-correction) so apparently there are a lot of people out there not using Microsoft Word or who have turned the auto-spell thing off. Turn it back on. Please.
^ Between you and me. Not I. ME. Between you and me. Between is a PREPOSITION. Your pronoun needs to be in the OBJECTIVE. Please generalise this to with her and me, from him and me, etc.
*** They’re not even necessarily readers of my books. This is the thing that really boggles me. It’s tedious and discouraging enough to get yelled at for being a Loathsome Human Being by someone who claims they used to like my books. It’s really disconcerting to get yelled at by someone who says ‘and now I’m never ever going to read ANY of your books.’ Huh? Are there specifiable search protocols out there for finding stuff that will piss you off when you need to yell at someone?^
^ Where do I . . . no, no, my computer(s) supply as much yelling-at opportunity as I need.
† Okay, that’s true
†† Rolling, you know.
††† At least they’re rarely street mail any more. I swear hate mail off-gases nuclear meltdown or car exhaust or something.
‡ Just by the way, if there’s a book-shaped object to be made out of professional writers’ words, there’s usually, you know, contracts, and, conceivably, money, involved in the transaction. I haven’t got a problem with donating to a charity^ but I think I might feel a little twitchy about this project if other details weren’t ploughing it under. It could be a perfectly genuine error of concept on her part, but aren’t teenagers doing Important Projects usually assigned adult mentors with a clue?
^ Aside from the fact that I’ve never produced a piece of writing to order that a charity would want. See: Peter’s EARTH AND AIR, since I can’t write short stories.
‡‡ Sic, by the way. There is no ‘it’. This is probably an acceptable typo—it’s always hard to proofread your own stuff, and we’re going on the assumption that she doesn’t have an adult mentor with a clue who might proofread with her—still.
‡‡‡ Okay, there is some cause for confusion. There is a war, a blue sword, and marrying the king in both of them.^
^ Unless she’s talking about DRAGONHAVEN. In which case it gets really interesting.
§ Not that this will actually do her any good. I haven’t got time to—or the least interest in—writing a lot more drivel about The Writing Process. That’s what my website FAQ is for. I haven’t updated it in years—bad me—but the writing stuff doesn’t need updating.
§§ Which she sent as an attachment. Does anyone open attachments from strangers any more? Not me babe. And this is something I would have thought Today’s Teenager, on Facebook from birth, who may have forgotten how to sign her name on a piece of paper with a pen^ but who can text faster than Super(wo)man can leap a tall building in a single bound, wouldn’t have needed an adult mentor to tell her not to do.
^ Pen? You mean like that thing I need to buy before my BULL TERRIER PUPPY comes home in about ten days?
§§§ She’s a year off graduating. She’s old enough to have some idea of money and that, you know, travelling costs an amount of it. Never mind professional fees. And she’s writing from America and it’s a one-clicker to find out I live in England.
Okay, enough with the happy Peter Dickinson book news and the adorable puppy photos and all that chirpy stuff. I am still kind of reeling from a couple of days ago* which may help explain why this evening . . . I am having a CRANKY ATTACK.**
I’ve been reading a very interesting book, THINKING, FAST AND SLOW by Daniel Kahneman. It’s had a huge amount of positive press (as in this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/13/thinking-fast-slow-daniel-kahneman ) and is a mega best seller and as someone who is even more depressed by the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY phenomenon than she was at the TWILIGHT phenomenon, which was as low as I was expecting the common denominator to get***, I say splendid, and may it sell trillions. But . . .
I found the first half a lot more compelling than the second, although I’d been making occasional spluttering noises of disbelief or disagreement from the beginning†. But he lost me completely near the end.†† He decides to use LA TRAVIATA as a coat hanger to drape some stuff about the irrationality of human emotions over. And he gets details of the plot wrong. He says that Violetta’s lover, Alfredo, is an aristocrat. He is not. He is bourgeois. When Papa Germont comes to do the heavy-dad thing at Violetta and convince her to give Alfredo up for the sake of Alfredo’s family and especially his sister, innocent flower that she is, and about to be sold, I mean married, to a man who won’t have her if her brother is shacked up with a whore. There is no way this scene would work the way it works if Germont were an aristocrat. It might work some other way, but that’s not the opera Verdi wrote.
Kahneman goes on to describe the end: Violetta is dying surrounded by a few friends. She is NOT. She is ALONE, except for her maid, and occasional visits from her doctor, and the fact that the doctor who professionally declares the death sentence††† is treated like a friendly visitor underscores just how terribly alone she is.‡ This makes her last-minute reunion with her bourgeois lover and his thug of a father—who can afford to be generous because she’s going to be dead in a minute—infinitely more poignant. Someone might have written what Kahneman says Verdi wrote. But that’s not what Verdi wrote, and what Verdi wrote breaks your heart. Stuff irrationality.
But if Kahneman is this careless over such easily checked details, what else has he been careless about?
* * *
* The state of this society, in which I was born, grew up and am now growing old in, on the subject of sex, power and women’s rights, APPALS me. You all know about Todd Akin’s recent, fabulously grotesque remark that a woman’s body will reject rapist sperm so she won’t get pregnant? Uh-huh. That alone does my head in, but now read this, any of you who haven’t already, it was a popular retweet on Twitter a couple of days ago: http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/dear-representative-todd-akin-i-got-pregnant-from-rape Here’s the paragraph I wish to draw your particular attention to, emphasis mine:
Today, I am an attorney and the busy single mother of an amazing second grader. My rape is responsible for both of these roles. You see, I enrolled at GeorgetownLawSchoolafter learning, firsthand, that pregnancy from rape creates unimaginable obstacles for women who decide to raise the children they conceive through rape. In the vast majority of states, a rapist has the same custody and visitation rights to a child born through his crime as other fathers enjoy. In 2010, a paper I wrote on this topic was published by the Georgetown Law Journal, and I continue to travel throughout the country speaking on this issue.
I despair. Sometimes . . . I despair.
** If you want to put your iPad down and go hunt up your hellgoddess SPF 157 dark glasses at this point, that would be a good idea.
*** I AM BORED TO DEATH BY PORN, BOTH SOFT AND HARD^. And pretty much always have been. I went through a phase of watching quite a lot of, ahem, hard commercial porn, because it was all about sexual liberation . . . and is some of where I woke up to the reality of the fact that it isn’t. And the apparent fact that some form of tie-me-up-tie-me-down^^ is the fantasy du jour of gazillions of women today frelling desolates me. It makes me wish I was born on the second planet of Tau Ceti, where it’s all about tentacles and there are thirteen genders which are reassigned by blind ballot every other year.
^ I’m a Scorpio. We like sex. We think sex is great.
^^ No, I haven’t seen the Almodovar film, and I won’t. Sue me. I haven’t read FIFTY SHADES either. Yes, I read TWILIGHT. Well, most of it. I tried.
† I’m willing to entertain the possibility that to run experiments at all the lab coats have to simplify. But simplifying human beings’ reactions is risky. I’ve loaned my hard copy of the book to Gemma and have been listening on Audible while hurtling, so I can’t look up chapter and verse. But one example that sticks in my mind is about an experiment in—let’s call it compassion. A group of strangers are in a series of little booths, and each in turn has a chance to speak. A plant by the admin, when it’s his turn, says that he is inclined to fits when he gets stressed, this is stressing him . . . and then apparently goes off in a fit. The point is that almost none of the genuine guinea pigs attempts to go to his rescue, and this is supposed to prove that we’re less nice than we think we are.
Wait a minute. You mean nobody was screaming for the admin, phoning for an ambulance—okay, I don’t know if this was since mobile phones became ubiquitous—or demanding to know what the hell was the problem that whoever screened experimental candidates didn’t find out that one of their prospects might have a fatal fit from the stress of being in this study? Nobody either objected to the set up or smelled a gigantic rotting rat here? No, I don’t want to deal with a stranger having a fit, so, fine, I’m not a nice person. But I haven’t got a clue about fits^, and there ought to be safety precautions in place.
And something else I kept thinking over and over as yet another bunch of credulous humans fell in yet another trap laid for them by the devious lab coats, isn’t anyone ever suspicious when they’ve turned up for some kind of unspecified psychological testing and are shown into a booth or handed a page of curiously bland instructions?^^
^ Or perhaps I should say that on the blessedly few occasions that I’ve been the conscious human on the spot, the first thing I did was go for expert help.
^^ One of my terrible secrets is that I do sometimes read amazon reviews for nonfiction.+ THINKING gets mostly good customer buzz too, but the few objectors are instructive. This one pretty much reflects my feelings. http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1846140552/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_3?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addThreeStar&showViewpoints=0 And since I’m not sure how amazon customer review links work, the one I mean is by M D Holley.
+ If you’re looking for a basic Japanese grammar or a knitting reference book, your means of making even a semi-informed choice are limited.
†† Which I just listened to this evening and had to explain to the hellhounds since there was no one else around. Possibly because I was trying to explain it to the hellhounds.
††† The ridiculousness of the doctor declaring ‘she has only a few hours to live’ almost wrecks it. But not quite. Especially if you don’t speak Italian.
‡ Maybe Kahneman is confusing it with the end of La Boheme. Another heroine dying of tuberculosis in Italian, la la la la, who cares? I care.