lundi 9 mars 2009

Blue like my oatmeal bowl

and campanules


Sisyphe is contemplating a hiatus. Overwhelmed with ennui, or just overwhelmed with things she has no desire to do, preoccupied with the past and sick to death of the dog hair and dirt (but not the dogs), grumpy and short of patience with all things political, she is neither insightful nor funny, if ever she were, which it appears that she might have been on a very few occasions because she was thanked for it specifically. But now, she is not in the least.

It's what happens when something bigger than everything else happens, but you can't talk about it because it has no place in a blog. It obliterates all the rest.

I picked up the Jane Austen volume on the table next to my bed again. Persuasion. Not my favorite. Jane lets it start to lag with the-head-injury-by-the-sea. One starts to prefer the modern day methods of just telling the gentleman in question that, yes, you still love him more than anything in the world and hope that he can forgive you for having been persuaded, with all the pain that occasioned you, to decline the offer of his hand. You would, in short, be the happiest woman alive if he would but offer it again.

Note, too, that he doesn't come equipped with an ex (or two) and children. Eight years have passed, and he is, incredibly, only improved by additional confidence and the glow of maturity, wealth and accomplishment.

The best of the Austen men were truly the best of men.

Sisyphe needs to duct tape herself firmly to the present and form the sort of incompletely informed but terribly sure opinions about others that would allow her to class them away as unworthy of her limited emotional resources as they seem to have found the means to do themselves. I mean, just how hurt can you be and still be worth anything?
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So, the marmalade cat update


It now looks like short of running into the neighbors as they are packing their moving truck, we will have neither news nor thanks from them.

I took Wisp to the vet last week to have the vaccinations she couldn't have last January because she had to have a shot of cortizone for her progressive mid-line hair loss that began at the tail and crept up her spine. The vet said it wasn't because I sprayed her with the Frontline spray I use on the dogs, but I think he's wrong. He said this condition usually comes from flea saliva, but I had 3 of our 4 animals with me, and not one of them had any flea droppings in its tail-end fur. Besides, this has been the coldest winter I can remember in a very long time. Those would be hale and hardy fleas to have survived it to jump onto my cat around Christmas. I also took Rapide to have him check out the cyst in her left tear duct that they are going to remove the 19th.

Anyway. Back to the story I began.

The technician (nurse, they call them here) that day knew more. She told us that it was thought that the cat could be immobilized for 3-4 weeks to allow its pelvis to heal. They were amazed that our neighbors hadn't come to thank me for getting their cat to a vet quickly.

"Well, if they don't think that I did it, but was too cowardly to admit it, or if they don't think that I really did know that it was their cat that I hit and took to my own vet, instead of taking much more thoughtfully to their own vet, probably the one in Freneuse, closer to where we live, then they are just rude."

"Don't worry, you couldn't have taken it to the one in Freneuse, anyway. He never works on Saturdays," said my vet, who does work Saturdays, right along with his colleagues, in a very disparaging tone of voice.

There's one thing about which I feel much better. Not that I ever had reason to feel badly. That's just me. Torture myself for other people's lackings and rudenesses, sure it's my fault.

I mentioned to Audouin that a "vendue" sign had gone up in front of their house, without there ever having been an "à vendre" one. We knew they intended to move permanently to their vacation home, somewhere else, far away.

"Je me démande comment serront nos nouveau voisins."

"Probablement plus gentils."

Il y a des fortes chances.
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Animal passports


So, do you know how much it costs now for vaccinations for your found cat? More than 100 euros. That's right. The European Union has decided that from January 1, 2009, all domestic animals that heed vaccinations will have to have a passport. It's sort of like your passport, only it contains their entire record of vaccination. They don't need it only if they intend to travel for business or pleasure, but if they are going to get their vaccinations. It costs about 60 euros, and it is good for life, or until the EU decides to replace it with something fancier and costlier still.

To have a passport, the animal must be tattooed or have an electronic identification chip inserted behind the skin of the neck under the ear (preferred nowadays). No chance of passing another pooch for the actual passport holder.

So, take the case of Will O'Wisp, who my husband found lying, dying of hunger on a walking path in the woods along the old sand quarry in the center of the boucle. At 1.5 kg, she was nearly gone. A soaking wet beg of bones that could barely lift its head, let alone stand on her four paws. Her rear legs were so atrophied that they collapsed under her very meager weight. You could feel the exact profile of each and every one of her vertebrae, the sides, too.

We fed her and let her sleep on a towel in the crook of my arm, where she still sleeps if Audouin refuses her the place between our two heads, where she likes to burrow against both of us, or if she hasn't selected Baccarat or Rapide in our place for the night. We took her to the vet to see if she carried diseases that needed to be treated for her to gain strength and survive. She did both, and last week, her third round of vaccinations since he brought her home cost us over 100 euros. That was on top of the nearly 300 we had spent in January to have both dogs vaccinated and get Wisp a shot of cortizone for her mange-like condition. She now carries a little medal announcing that she is protected by an electronic chip.

"I'll hang it with her other jewels," I quipped to the vet and his nurse, referring to the little puffy heart that came with her collar, hanging next to the nametag I had made for her, a heart with a little pink bling to match her pink collar. "This found cat announces to the world that she has humans who care." They laughed. Now we just have to hope that she's smart enough to get across the street without getting hit first. Cars can't read little medals and nametags, or see that they are heart-shaped with pink bling.

I arrive at my point, which is a question. Is the EU, in its desire to protect animals and humans, actually putting them more at risk by pricing routine care for peoples' much-loved domestic pets out of their reach? It's a huge budget, when you add it all up, and include feeding them decent food. For the two dogs, it's a 13 kg bag of veterinary food at nearly 80 euros every 5-6 weeks, plus the cats, who are managing on Purina, for now. The dogs are off the Pro Plan until they lose -- well, until Rapide loses a little more weight. She has already lost just about all she needs to. Then, they go on the maintenance food, and I might just keep them on this brand because Rapide's skin and fur improved just as much and as overnight as the vet predicted it could.

There are many people on fixed incomes, who find themselves facing their vet, announcing that they need a passport and an electronic chip for little Pierrou, people who are already feeding their beloved pet the cheapest brand of food available on the grocery store shelves. They join their pet at the food bowl for the next month, or leave and put their animal at risk.

Or, they can always eat cube steaks, like everyone else trying to eat on a tight budget these days.

You see, in the very, very rare instance that rabies is found, all animals within a certain radius who have not been vaccinated are systematically rounded up and put down. No exceptions. This actually happened near Bordeaux not very long ago. The culprit was Tikki, a dog illegally imported from Morroco to France. In the summer of 2004, Tikki died of rabies, after having been in contact with legions of humans and other animals, which started a domino chain of preventitive vaccinations for humans and the euthanasia of numbers of domestic animals whose owners could not show proper records of vaccination against rabies.
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"She needs to lose weight"


These words from the vet, concerning Rapide, were just about the best thing that could have happened to me. Better than hearing my own doctor (or husband, one in the same) say it to me. It came just after I had dragged myself back to the gym, after nearly a year away. My excuse? The election. Who had time to work out and follow all the news? But, I was going back to the gym, since November, but without the regularity of application that I needed. Rapide was also spreading, and becoming accustomed to a level of inactivity that surpassed only my own. Baccarat was also at risk, although her sprints to the door any time I stood up from my laptop screen or reached for my coat to head to the store were preventing the same level of engraissement as her mother and I were suffering.

The vet might as well have told the three of us that it was time to lose weight.

January 2, we started our walking and hill program, and Rapide hated me for it. Maybe resented. She didn't seem to hold it against me between torture sessions, but it was another story during those walks, where she dragged along behind as far as the length of leash would allow her, the collar slipped up over the right ear (she walks on my left), sucking air like a Hoover.

"Au pied, Rapide!" She wasn't having it. Baccarat trotting along just ahead of me, ready to go faster, and Rapide dragging her full weight along behind, trotting like a sulky 14-year-old girl, who really wanted to plod, but my own pace wouldn't let her. She did all but stop short and refuse to move forward. It was all I could do not to scream. I did not look forward to our walks, as much as I love it when we arrive at the top of the rise onto the ridge road and walk along it under the stars, Mantes lit up below, off beyond the other side of the Seine to the right and the fields stretching off to our left to the Seine, la Roche-Guyon and the further ridges beyond. The Seine cuts a deep swath in an otherwise high landscape. There are very few cars up there late in the evening.

Night after night, we repeated the same scenario until Audouin read me the riot act for walking up the unlit road to the ridge in the dark with two black dogs, and once I got over my pout -- who did he think he was? My father? Not that I couldn't have used one of those... but that's the past -- I headed the other way from the gate, to the other end of the village where there's a really steep bit of street. Rapide looked at me like, "Are you being serious?" She didn't like the look I returned her.

Of course, all I had to do was get a flashlight for our walk, and put on a reflective jacket. They even make them for dogs, right along with reflective, neon yellow or orange collars for hunting.

"On y va, les fi-filles."

We walked that hill four times in a row, making U-turns at the top and the bottom, Rapide hauling her hind end up that slope at the far end of her leash and panting for all she was worth until I started to feel guilty for making their greatest pleasure -- a walk -- her greatest misery. After several evenings' application, my own hind quarters ached from the effort. Reluctantly, I let up on her. I could go to the gym for that, but she just needed to walk, not die of a heart attack.

The results of two months' effort were measured last week. When the vet came in, he sat down on the lowered examining table, at eye level with her haunches.

"Je pense qu'elle a perdu de poids," I ventured. He petted her and continued to look at her, where her waist cuts in nicely now at the pelvis.

"Oui, à l'oeil, je dirais qu'elle a perdu. C'est bien."

"Mais, je l'ai pesé, et elle est à 40 kg!"

"Vous venez de le faire ici?" he asked. I nodded.

"La balance ici rajoute 10%. Il faut l'enlever pour son vrai poids." That meant that she was at 36 kg. 35 is the goal.

I am not telling you how much I weigh still! I can't anyway, since I refuse to weigh myself.

Rapide is nearly on maintenance -- as well as trotting right along, for the most part, when she feels like it, like a champion with much greater respiratory ease --, and I am back at it. I even got my bike out and rode it the 16 or 17 km to the gym and back last week, and to the grocery store. We walk every day, at least 45 minutes -- although twice that would be good for them -- but that's hard for me if I am also going to the gym. Take the day that I rode my bike to the gym. That was 45 minutes there, 75 at the gym, 45 minutes back, followed by a 45 minute walk with the dogs.

I'd have time for nothing else.

Which might not be so bad.

And, no workers today. We expected them to be gone "2 or 3 days" last week, which I understand to mean the entire week, but today, too? The clouds have come to cover the bright blue sky, and I really, really need to attack the crap in the house and take what I absolutely can't throw away (yet) to the attic. I live in perpetual self-recrimination and guilt because we have no storage space and vast amounts of clutter, dust and dog fur. Worse, I can't work on anything I need to do when I know the house is in need of attention.

"Prends une femme de ménage," suggested Audouin. I explained that a cleaning lady will only keep the house as nice as she finds it when she first comes. We need to do the interior first, and then get a cleaning lady to help me. I cannot abide dust and clutter.
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Fish flourishing


They come out from behind the conrete block when I talk to them again. I am forgiven the assault I committed, removing them from their home, the fish-pond-in-a-fountain?

I just went and did some basic research on goldfish. We don't have koi. I know that because they don't have the barbels on the lip that koi do (see the koi to the right), and the original fish in the basin were more likely two very ordinary goldfish Audouin thought had to be unhappy living in a bowl and released into the vaster confines of the old fountain. He was right, they probably were bored to tears and sad:
Goldfish are curious fish that will quickly become bored without items or other fish to interact with. If placed in a bare aquarium goldfish will settle to the bottom and only move when fed or frightened by sudden jolts. However, if put in a tank with sufficient gravel, aquarium accessories or plants (real or fake) they will make themselves at home. Adding a few companion fish will also help, but make sure each fish has plenty of personal space.
I knew it! I knew from hours of watching them that they are not as stupid as people say they are. If you live with them, and you watch them, you know they aren't. You also know what the Wikipedia article goes on to say, that they are mildly territorial. Ours lived in three clans, each tending to occupy the same area of the old fountain, although in the coldest winter weather, they would often all retreat beneath the old stone sink that Audouin placed in the fountain as a planter, and which is no longer visible under all the plants.

I also learned to understand reproductive behavior in them. I am nearly certain that one of them is carrying eggs right now, but I haven't seen any males potentially present chasing and prodding her to get her to release her eggs, which I am hoping to see. First, I have to see if I can figure out what the white spots on the gills of the males in mating mode actually look like. If that ever happens, I have to be on the lookout for the eggs, since I should consider removing them from the can so the others won't snack on them. Now, how do I do that? I am also, apparently, supposed to feed them "fry food". I'm sure that's easy. Just head over to Florosny and ask, "Excusez-moi, mais auriez-vous du 'fry food'?"

They're called "tubercles". I found a photo. I have seen these; I had no idea they meant that the fish were in mating condition. The only ones left are very light colored, and since my aggression of them, they are avoiding me a little, so it will be harder to see if they show any tubercles.

And, while the concrete block was one appropriate gesture, I need to give them some additional stuff, like plants, gravel and some stones, and fast, along with changing out their water now that they live -- for the moment -- in a confined fish can.



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