Friday, September 27, 2013

Dog owners' annual review: Angus turns one

Our puppy turned one last week, and celebrated by ingesting the stuffing out of our daughter’s volleyball kneepad.

Had it been my birthday, I would have gone with a cheesecake, but that is just one of the differences between me and Angus.

This little Scottish terrier stole our hearts the moment we met him seven months ago, and he’s been digging his way into our hearts ever since (not unlike the way he’s digging his way through our newly planted flowerbed).

When it comes to Angus and his many misdeeds, I realize he’s an active illustration of grace. In fact, I can’t believe how much grace we give him, solely on the fact that he’s cute, cuddly and kisses us every time he sees us.

So we continue to forgive him when he shreds the mail, masticates the ear buds, and piddles on the carpet based solely on the fact that he sure is cute.
He does have a tendency to eat some things that make no sense whatsoever. I’ll be the first to admit that there are times I find myself eating something and have to stop and ask, “What am I thinking? This is disgusting!” (I’m talking to you Flaming Hot Cheetos.) But I hopefully learn from my mistake and avoid that food from there on in.

But Angus loves pencils. And cotton balls. And Post-It notepads. And he keeps going back for seconds.

In the last few months I have found the following items chewed into pieces and stuck in the carpet:
• An electric thermometer
• A piece from the board game SORRY (A cry for mercy, perhaps?)
• A newspaper section (It may have been the one with Putin on the cover)
• A sock monkey doll whose button eyeball was dangling from a string (which is a creepy sight to wake up to in the morning)
• A crayon
• A pack of spearmint gum (although our son pointed out that his breath was “minty fresh”)

We had a friend tell us that they once spent $5,000 to have an object removed from their dog’s intestine. Craig heard that and gave me the look. That look says, “I love this dog, but if we’re looking at dropping $5,000 to dislodge a SORRY game piece, he’s on his own.”

And before you start sending hate emails to me regarding my husband’s hard heart toward Angus, rest assured he’s joking. I think.

For me, I’ve learned to love Angus in spite of his penchant for eating items throughout the house. That is, until last week.

I was carrying groceries from the garage into the house and left the door open. Angus wandered out in the garage, which he typically doesn’t do. Next thing I knew, our daughter was out in the garage yelling, “No! No! He’s eating the cat poop out of the litter box!”

At that point I started chanting, “Just go to your happy place. Just go to your happy place.” As I walked out in the garage, scooped him up and brought him back in.

We sat and stared at one another, him and me. I tried to rationalize it, but was unable to make any sense of it. I mean, there are Flaming Hot Cheetos and then there’s THIS. In comparison, Flaming Hot Cheetos is clearly winning that competition. And Flaming Hot Cheetos are disgusting.

I stared at him a little longer. He gave me the head cock that says, “Aren’t I cute?” but I just shook my head no. He tucked his tale, sunk to the floor and slept, full belly and all.

Of course all was forgiven by the day’s end and we were one big happy family again. I even went out and bought some Nylabones which a friend recommended. He chewed on those happily and I thought our problems were solved.

Then, a few days later, I came in the room and discovered our new Ohio State Buckeyes baseball cap on the floor with the brim half eaten. Mind you, the cap was RIGHT NEXT TO THE NYLABONE, which was right next to Angus, who was giving me his best puppy eyes.

Did I mention he’s cute?

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer. You can reach her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ode to the ellipsis

I know it’s wrong to use it in such a way, and I know that’s it’s become a crutch, but I must admit that I’ve been having an illegitimate love affair with the ellipsis for years now. Surely, I thought, I could find a support group among the many writers who have been similarly led down this particular primrose path of pauses, but alas … none existed.

Not to be dissuaded, I set out and started my own support group called “Ellipsis … Anonymous.” I invited everyone to my house at 2000 W. Maple … a place, I must confess, I bought for the address alone … and I served M&Ms in batches of three.

However the people who showed up tended to trail off midway through their stories, or stopped abruptly before staring off into space, which seemed appropriate but really stymied the healing process. It was … daunting.

I found myself wandering the streets that night, talking to myself, binging on one story after another without end, drinking deep from the nectar of incomplete thoughts until … I hit rock bottom.

It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t pause for breath in my prose without automatically hitting dot-dot-dot. I was ravenous … a wild animal on the prowl for a pregnant pause, a thoughtful moment or a half-baked idea so I could swoop in and get my fix. I was putting ellipses where commas would suffice … ellipses when em dashes would do the trick … ellipses when a yadayadayada would convey the same idea. It was all too much and I collapsed under the pressure.

I woke up the next morning in the gutter outside of a Barnes and Nobles, gripping my beat-up copy of “Love is…” poems and staring in the face of one harsh reality … I needed help.

I got up out of the gutter, flipped open my laptop and started writing … hair of the dog and all that jazz. What I was after was a mantra to get me through the tough spots, those times where it’s just so … tempting to use that one, single punctuation, albeit incorrectly. I needed a higher power to see me through, and … amazingly … this little beauty fell out of the sky like a penny … or coin … from Heaven:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the proper uses for the ellipsis;
Courage to use it when I should and deny myself when I shouldn’t;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Doesn’t it seem appropriate, then, that today, National Punctuation Day, would be my quit day? I have decided to go cold turkey. No more ellipses for me. I’m clean and sober starting now of course that means I can’t use any punctuation for fear that the pause in and of itself would throw me headlong into a full blown relapse from which I might never recover until I could once again use my beloved and reliable ellipsis just saying the word makes this all the more harder until I simply … break … down.

They say that admitting the problem is half the battle, and I’m counting on that to be true. But right now, I have an inexplicable desire to learn Morse code and eat M&Ms. And besides, as my friend Scarlett once said … “Tomorrow is another day.”