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Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Dog is a Crackhead

I spent last weekend punching my dog in the head. Hard as I could.

Let me explain.

Kia, the mellow one, on the left. Kooper, the crackhead, right.

We've got two boxers. Kia's easygoing. You could run the vacuum on her, swear to God. Kooper, though, he's scared of everything -- strangers, lightning, sound. The one thing he's NOT scared of? Animals. And that makes him Alpha Dog #1 in our dog pack of two. He's first out the door. First to eat. First, everything.

Kia couldn't care less. Like I said, she's Sunday morning.

Crack Calls

Kooper is a sweet dog. Honestly, seriously. Wouldn't hurt anyone. Here's the problem: he's a crackhead. Meat bones are his crack. When he sees ones, smells one, thinks of one, he goes full-on rabid. And if Kia is standing between him and his crack?

Down goes Kia.

So last week, when Kia was digging for a bone she buried, Kooper went into a crack fury. It sounded like two hippos killing each other in the backyard. By the time I got there, Kooper had her by the neck. And he wasn't coming off. I called him. Pulled him. Yanked him. Still crack crazy.

So I punched him before she was seriously hurt. Six times, it took. Then he let go.

Funny thing, though. I put them back together an hour later (after I disposed of the bone). You know what? They curled up just like nothing happened. Kia didn't seem bothered in the least.

Six hours after death match.

That's how we roll. We're dogs.

Forgiveness seemed effortless. Animals make it look so easy. Problem is, will they learn? Would Kooper give a damn if he killed her for a bone? Maybe. As humans, we have the ability to transform, to rise above our instinct. Whether we do that, depends. It's not easy. But absolutely critical we do.

Moral of the story? Don't do crack, kids.

Or bones.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Princess and the Gobstopper

Willy Wonka almost killed my daughter.

The seconds that followed her abrupt inhalation was the realization she was choking. Willy Wonka's gobstopper had lodged in her throat. No time to remember the universal sign for choking when her last breath is counting down. No rational game of charades to explain that a marble-sized jawbreaker is wedged in her windpipe. Just time for her eyes to bulge. Just panic, shock and a timeless moment of uncertainty.

But then, just as quickly, it was out. She took a deep breath and tears filled her eyes. And my wife's. I was still in shock, like I'd just looked over the edge of a precipice, vertigo still swirling in my head.

I lay in bed that night, feeling the rise and fall of my chest, wondering if in some parallel universe the gobstopper never came up and I never heard her laugh again. If she stepped off the precipice instead of away, would an emotional hole open in my chest like a California mudslide? Could I survive that?

Some of you aren't as lucky as us. You've lost loved ones. I wish I could say I understand, but I can only  imagine. But you are still here and stronger than anyone will ever know because even imagining stepping off that precipice fills me with hopelessness. The actual drop... I can't imagine.

Once, when my daughter was six, she asked me what I would do if she died. "I would cry," I told her. "For the rest of my life." She laughed because she thought I meant spilling tears. No, not tears, Princess. But here, in my heart.

To love deeply, we risk grandly. One cannot be without the other. And I am willing to risk that sinking mud hole for the rest of my life. It's worth every tear.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

For Extra Credit...

Exams are imperfect.

A written exam is not a always a good measure of ability. Some students think better with a hammer than a pencil. Sometimes it's a learning disability, sometimes performance anxiety. Sometimes the exam sucks.

Try this on for size:

If a pesticide reaches groundwater, it will breakdown
a) Very quickly
b) Quickly
c) Slowly
d) Very slowly

This is an actual question on a certification exam. What's the difference between quickly and very quickly? I have no freaking clue.

Like life insurance, exams are a necessary evil. They measure a student's comprehension and the ability to express that understanding. Still, there are always questions that end up more tricky than challenging. And that's why I have extra credit.

It's not the type of extra credit that's super-challenging. Who invented the lawn mower and what was his daughter's name? If someone gets that right, they don't need extra credit. I give a little bonus at the end of an exam. All you have to do is answer a stupid question and -- boom -- two points.

I've asked everything from what's the last movie that made you cry to what's the most revolting food you've ever eaten. I provide students with my answer and then ask for theirs. Not only is it entertaining, but we learn a lot about each other. There's been some good answers over the years. This semester's Hall of Fame winner had me laughing for days. It comes from a rough-cut guy with a good sense of humor. It goes like this.

Looking back, what clothing or accessory have you worn in younger days that seems ridiculous now? It might have been a fad, maybe you were just cool or perhaps your parents made you wear it... whatever. Any way you slice it, "What was I thinking?"

Student answer
The whole spandex fad in the 80s. Yeah, my mom made me wear spandex bicycle shorts in elementary school. Long and short. Me and my classmates had many black eyes.