Thursday, January 31, 2008

Whelp! Whelp!

I like keeping up “Hogs in Budapest.” It’s an attempt to keep me writing even when things get hectic. So, when I let time slip between posts, I often feel guilty. But not this time.

This time, the ‘other things I had to do’ all felt considerably more important than this blog.

This time I was kept from posting by Szóda and her litter of eight healthy puppies.

Szóda whelped the puppies on the 11th of January, and this is the first chance I’ve had to write about it. And I’ve been dying to write about it.

It was a life experience, and I don’t use that phrase lightly here. I have lived to see a dog give birth. Like psychedelics, sex, or salsa lessons, you’ve either been through it or you haven’t.

There are those who may chastise me for allowing Szóda’s accidental pregnancy, but…

Well, you’re right. This is normally the kind of thing you want to plan – in detail. So I’ll be the first to admit, I screwed up a little bit. But we did want puppies eventually, and it’s not like Szóda will have to drop out of school and study for the GED while nursing.

Still, I knew that I had dropped the ball when I caught Szóda and the sire – who I like to call Mitt – in the act on the lawn outside the house in Leányfalu. Mitt is a neighborhood dog who has shown some affection for Szóda in the past. He’s a medium sized muscular black dog – looks to be mostly Lab. When I stepped outside, Mitt was on top of Szóda, and all the equipment was firmly in place.

In my defense, I thought Szóda was finished with the receptive stage of her cycle. She was not. She was receptive… or receiving or whatever you want to call it. Both her and Mitt knew, however, that I didn’t like what I was seeing. Mitt quickly changed his mind about what he was doing, and turned to run down the hillside.

Now, I’m no dog-breeding expert. I don’t have me one of them fancy degrees in dog-breed-ology, but I saw something right then that I don’t think many lay-people are familiar with. Dogs can’t simply pull out (you’ll forgive the phrase). When Mitt went running down the hill, he took Szóda with him. Szóda, for her part, was trying to run toward me, but Mitt had the hill and a bit more towing capacity. It was an odd sight, to be sure.

Over the next few weeks I watched Szóda for any signs of pregnancy. I didn’t really know what to look for, but I figured her appetite would change or her energy level would fluctuate. Nothing. So five weeks later, when we left for the holidays and had to board her, I didn’t think to mention anything to the kennel. The only reason that (poor) decision didn’t end in disaster is that our kennel is run by the kindest, most wonderful animal lovers in the whole of Hungary. They contacted a vet and got Szóda an ultrasound. Pregnancy confirmed.

We returned from Florida on a Sunday. First thing, we got the name of a good vet who does house calls, picked up the dog, and got ready for the big day. While we waited, we read up on whelping puppies. We didn’t have to wait long.

Szóda stopped eating on Thursday. We knew from our reading that was a sign. The next day she was sniffing around the house. That was the next sign. Then at about 5:00pm, she started panting. It would be soon. I was alone in the apartment, but when I called Dóra, she told me she’d be there right away.

The first puppy was whelped before Dóra got home. Initially it looked like Szóda wanted to do this on the floor near the heater. She was whining a little and seemed confused about what was happening. She shifted between lying down, sitting, and the different poses she strikes while going to the bathroom. Her ears were pinned back. She seemed afraid I was going to scold her. I started petting her and reassuring her that she was a good dog, and that’s when I saw it. From between her hind legs there was a foggy translucent bubble pushing its way out.

I started panting. I had read about what I would have to do if things went wrong. It all sounded very complicated. I just kept hoping Szóda’s instincts would do the job. My hopes seemed misplaced when Szóda moved from her spot on the floor to her ottoman. (Yes, we bought Szóda an ottoman. She likes to sit how people sit.) She jumped up and got situated.

I didn’t like the look of things. The way she laid down meant the puppies would be born into this world only to tumble off the side of a piece of IKEA furniture. So I squatted down beside Szóda and held out my hands. I felt like I was behind home plate.

The first puppy fell into my palms around 6:00pm. It was still inside the placenta, but Szóda got to licking and nibbling, and soon there was a wet puppy taking its first breath. While the puppy struggled out of my hands and onto the upholstery, Szóda ate the placenta and the umbilical cord. This was surprisingly less gross than I had thought it would be. She licked everything up and then went about cleaning the pup.

Dóra got home to see the second puppy arrive. The next five were easier than the first.

The seventh was on the small side, and somehow I convinced myself that the runt was always the last one whelped. I thought I must have read it somewhere, because it sounded so reasonable. You ever do that? Make up some kind of fact and then decide it’s true without any real world evidence? I do it all the time.

Anyway, I was wrong. By the time the vet came over, there was an eighth, and when the exam was over, he told us a ninth was on the way. By 10:00pm the whelping was over, and it was doggie day-care time. Nine puppies and one tired bitch.

The runt wasn’t strong enough to make it, but the other puppies are getting bigger every day. They are starting to walk – kind of. They wobble up into this bow-legged stance and stumble around. Of course it’s all unreasonably cute. We’re enjoying it. There are homes for most of the pups already. We’re going to keep one. That was the plan all along. When we decide which one, I’ll write something about that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Opinions Suck

Yeah? Well... that's just -- like -- your opinion... man...

I'm still undecided on US elections. I can't say if living over here helps or hinders my decision making process, but this topic was on my mind yesterday when I was reading some news about my favorite band, Radiohead. After finishing the article I found myself perusing the comments left on the message board below the article.

Strange thing, those huge public message boards. I normally avoid them, as they have a tendency to make me angry at people who are as good as imaginary. But I have an unhealthy obsession with the aforementioned band, so I allowed myself to wallow in a bit of internet chatter.

Most of the comments came from people happy to hear about the upcoming US tour locations, but then I came to a comment by 'macseries' who said "Radiohead is boring."

That's all. Nothing more.

I got angry - but not because '
macseries' thinks Radiohead is boring. My wife kinda thinks Radiohead is boring, and I love her just as much as I would if she were a fan.

No, I got angry because the internet is encouraging people like '
macseries' to believe that their opinion is important in and of itself. Too many internet users like 'macseries' believe that their simple undefended opinions mean something to me and the public at large because their two-dimensional view of the world is not challenged in the one-dimensional space they inhabit. The places these people post messages are all "high-fives" or "fuck-yous." There is no nuance, no subtlety to anyone's statements. No one feels the need to back up their views.

I know that the internet is the most democratic method of mass communication ever in the history of whatever, but democracy does not mean that everyone's opinion counts the same. It means that everyone has the right to an opinion AND in a free democracy those people (should) have access to the facilities that can help give their opinion value. But people still need to work to give their opinions value.

As an instructor of composition, I find myself explaining the following to 18 and 19 year olds nearly every day: Until you can prove otherwise, your opinion holds no value whatsoever. I don't care if your parents and your teenaged years made you feel like the most important person in the whole wide world - you are not. Your existence does not make you special. You are just some kid going to school in Hungary.
But... but, if you think about it, that fact is pretty cool in and of itself, and I bet there are other aspects of your life that are interesting. You do have experience and knowledge others lack. The challenges you now face are 1) successfully communicating the value of your experience to the critical world around you and 2) gathering the right kinds of experience to make your understanding of the world even more valuable.

I think it is an important lesson, and I am happy to pass it on to young people. But if the iFolks like
'macseries' continue to spout their tripe and then congratulate one and other for simply having an opinion, then as the world ceases to be critical, experience and understanding will continue to lose meaning. While I'll admit this brand of relativism is not anything new, I believe the internet is giving it a new vitality. I feel like there are symptoms of it everywhere - as pundits dole out unfounded arguments on TV and politicians retreat into the bowels of partisanship in the capitols and the sacred damn the secular while in church and the secular scoff at the sacred from the Ivory Tower and so on...

And this all is hitting extra hard because we're at the beginning of an election year. The 'raise your hand' debates and the sound bites are beginning to grate.

I believe our leaders need to rise above the
'macseries' of the world. I want to hear someone - anyone - acknowledge the complexity of the world and attempt to communicate how their understanding can lead us to better places. Drop the empty phrases.
Don't tell me your the candidate
with experience or the candidate for change or the candidate of security. Tell me how your experience will change the world and that will make me feel secure in casting my vote.

And now some Radiohead.